Buddhism, Christianity, and Love

I can’t remember if I have shared this on this blog. But before I was a Christian, I was a Buddhist. Before I was a Buddhist, I was a Methodist. I am not saying that you can’t be a Methodist and a Christian. I know many good ones, but I don’t think I was.

Growing up in church in the Bible Belt, I somehow missed the personal relationship with Jesus, the saving faith. I heard it, but I didn’t hear it. I just didn’t, though we spent every Sunday in a perfectly good and faithful church full of good and faithful Christians.

As a young man I joined the Air Force and was stationed in Delaware, outside the Bible Belt. I worked on Sundays, so I couldn’t go to church if I wanted to. Because of this, when I had a spiritual hunger, it simply did not occur to me to go back to Jesus. I needed something that made sense.

Buddhism made sense. And it was cool. Most importantly it was simple. Life is suffering, (made sense to me), and we can be content anyway. We should be loving and kind to others. Without going and looking up the whole eightfold path, I’ll go with what I remember. Right speech meant for me no lying and no gossiping. Right action meant doing nice things for people. Add meditation to it and that was enough to go on.

For a year and half I meditated every day, I was as nice as humanly possible to other people, I didn’t eat meat, and I didn’t kill bugs. There may have been more to it, but that is what I remember 25 years later. It was wonderful. People were drawn to me. They were asking me the question that Christians dream of being asked. “What’s your secret? Why are you so different?” 

I should say there was plenty of sin in my life. Without the Holy Spirit, true transformation is impossible. But the above things I was doing noticeably well. 

I will also add that I never could bring myself to buy any sort of Buddha statue. I still had church upbringing in my bones, and if a statue wasn’t idolatry I didn’t know what was. 

Then I was invited to a church. I went and experienced the tangible presence of Jesus. I saw him. He was real. I thought, “Ohhhhh. That’s who God is.” I believed then, and I believe now that God allowed me to get there through the side trip of this particular version of Buddhism (who I never considered to be a deity), because Chrisitanity had been very complicated in my mind. Now I understood that God is love. There are only two Great Commandments that matter. After you have put your faith in Jesus to forgive you by his death for you, then you must use your whole heart to love God and people. It was an easy transition. 

Sometimes I let faith get complicated as I study theology, but always the cure is to think back to that first understanding. No matter how complicated your theology, the point is the love of God for you, the love of you for God, and your love for other people.

Purpose

Because I get confused easily in this fallen world with my fallen emotions, it helps me to repeat things I’ve said before.

Apparently there was a time when only God existed. God always existed, so existence always existed. 

God existed perfectly true to his nature, so he created. He produced and blessed. 

He created all things, and all things he created exist. 

Everything exists as the thing it is.

THIS is the whole thing about purpose. Everything has a purpose springing from what it is. Just like God, everything exists perfectly according to its nature. Almost everything.

Only one created thing in the whole universe sometimes fails to do what it was created/purposed to do. That is man. You and me. 

Why? Because God has made us volitional beings. Yes, it is even harder because of the fact that we have a sin nature resulting from the fall (Gen 3). But even if we didn’t, we’d still be faced with the constant choice to live according to our purpose or not.

Another way to say that is to say we’d be faced with the constant choice to live or not.

Which means we are faced with the real and constant choice to do what is best according to our purpose or not. 

I agree with the Westminster people that my primary purpose is to glorify God and enjoy him.

This means two things at least: One is that enjoyment is a good thing, a concomitant of life, which means it is a concomitant of living our purpose, which is living our life really well as humans.

The other thing it means is that we need to know what glorifies God in our daily living. At the most basic level, being what we were built to be, a living being in his image is what glorifies him. Pursuing enjoyment, (enjoyment being a sign that we are on the right track in the pursuit of living purposefully) glorifies God. He made us to do that very thing. 

It is also true that it glorifies God for us to worship him directly (such as when we sing to him), which is also what he made us to do. Learn to see living well and productively as your purpose that glorifies God, and you will thrive.

Yes, we are fallen. We do need to allow Jesus to fulfill his purpose by saving us, redeeming us, giving us peace with God, and being Lord. So an important part of life is trusting Jesus for salvation and getting a new heart, a regenerated spirit, and the Holy Spirit living inside us. But…you will still have to make choices (remember Adam was not fallen when he made the wrong choice). And if you don’t come to terms with that, you will get confused about your purpose, when in reality, nothing could be simpler. 

Please Comment if you’d like me to elaborate.