So, in case you haven't noticed, I'm sticking with the theme I established in my last blog of addressing hard, but important questions that Christians are often asked. So, yeah, "Why do I follow Jesus?" It's a question I feel we, as Christians, can sometimes take for granted. I'm guilty of this myself. I had an experience not too long ago where I was participating in a small outreach project, and I discovered that I didn't have a great answer to this. As a very logical thinker, I often view things from what "makes the most sense" when all of the evidence is considered. I still feel that for some, this is a very valid way of both viewing and spreading the Gospel (perhaps a topic for another blog). However, a lot of people don't want to have a logical debate as their first introduction to Jesus. I realized at this event that I didn't actually have a great "emotional appeal" for Christ. I couldn't really answer why you should follow Christ outside of "this is why it makes sense" or "this is what the Bible says." So, this encouraged me to take a step back and take a look at the reason for my faith. How is it that Christians are able to look at a world full of deceit, unrest, illness, and death and somehow find a loving God over all of it? Why are we willing to go through the persecution that we so often face for our beliefs and not back down? I'd like to share what I've found. Maybe it will help you find Jesus, or maybe it will remind you of why you already did.
After my soul-searching, I came to one conclusion before anything else. I follow God because of who He is. Who is God? That's a loaded question that no one can fully answer, but Christians do get to know God through His word. Before anything else, we know that God is love. Not that God is loving. God IS love (1 John 4:8). I follow God because He is the pure embodiment of love. Everything that He has ever done is out of love, in one way or another. He created mankind in His image so that he can share His love with someone. He did this already knowing that we would fall short. He knew that if he gave us free will, many would turn away from him, and many would curse Him and try to write Him out of history. He knew this, but He made us anyway. He knew before He made the world that mankind would need a savior. He knew that if He created mankind, He would need to sacrifice His only son, Jesus, in order to save us (Revelation 13:8). Yet, He still created us. Why? Because He loves us. He loved us before we were ever born, and He loves us to this day.
Our savior Jesus Christ embodies this same love. Jesus gave up His privileges in Heaven in order to come down to earth, become a human, and die. He knew from the outset that this was His fate if He came to earth. He lived a perfect life. He taught us to love each other, even our enemies. He taught us that we have a loving Father who is watching over us even now, and will guide us every step of the way if we let Him. He committed no sin, hurt no one, cheated no one, lied to no one, and was killed out of jealousy and fear. Why? Because He loves us that much. One of my favorite stories of Jesus' love is found in Mark 10: 46-52. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, knowing that His death was coming. He was about to be betrayed by one of His own disciples and be handed over for a brutal death that He did not deserve. While He's walking he hears the voice of a blind man named Bartimaeus, who is calling out to Him for healing. Jesus, with (almost literally) the weight of the world on His shoulders, takes a moment to stop, talk to Bartimaeus, and heal him. Jesus loves us all that much. That He is willing to stop and help us with our problems when the future of the entire world is on His mind. He loves us so much that He was willing to go through a brutal death on the cross when He had the power to stop it at any moment because He knew that's what was necessary to save us.
After all of this, God has every right to demand anything and everything out of us. We have a debt that we have no ability to repay. Yet, what does Jesus ask of us? “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34). Yes, there are commandments and a lifestyle that we are called to live by. But, in the end, it boils down to loving each other as God has loved us. What more can I say?
How can I look past the evil that's in the world? How do I get through the pain and loss that comes with being human? I know that God loves me. I know that it all serves a purpose. I know that the reward at the end of it all far outweighs the troubles of today. I know that God will help me get there.
Why do I follow Christ? I follow Christ because I love Him. I love Him because He first loved me. He loved me before I was ever born. He lived a perfect life to set an example for me to follow. He died for me. Now, He still loves me, even after all of my sins. He guides me and comforts me every day of my life. For all of this, all He asks is that I turn away from the world, be baptized, and live by His example (Acts 2:38) (Romans 6:1-14) (1 Peter 2:21). If I do those things, I will spend eternity with Jesus. Why would I ever want anything else?
Jesus loves you in the same way, whether you follow Him or not. It doesn't matter what you've done, or how far gone you think you are, He has this same boundless love for you as he does for anyone else. He has a place set for you at the banquet table. There's only one question that will keep you from Him. Do you love Him? (John 14:21-23).
Ryan Zumpano is a member of the Shadyside Church of Christ.
He's a Freshman at West Liberty University, majoring in Computer Information Systems.
He is also the 2022 Valedictorian of Shadyside High School.