By Jaime Nava –
Growing up we had some well abused “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. You roll stats by randomly choosing a number on the last page for certain abilities or something of the sort. Once that is done, you begin on the first page. From there things are off and running. You would get a few paragraphs and then you had to choose which path to take. It would tell you which page to turn to and start on the next branch of choices. There were times you could turn off the road. Others would be filled with fighting. Sometimes you spoke to people or passed them by. The entire story was made up of your choices. You weren’t limited to an author’s linear path. No, you got to decide your fate. You got to choose your own adventure.
I like to choose my own adventure. Mario? Pfft. That’s old hat. There’s games now that allow players to create and carve. They can affect the economy. They can attack nearby cities and change the face of the game. We want the creative power to shape even our enjoyment. We even want decide fate in our digital leisure. This desire for control wasn’t formed in the 20th century. This has been raging on in our hearts for millennia. Video games and ragged books are only newer ways to express our self-curved bent on playing God. This reflects even in theology.
Ask Joe Shmoe on the street about “getting to heaven”. What will he say? Something about being good. In some pop-cultured way he’ll echo philosophers and theologians across time. Be good to others. Don’t desire evil. Follow the rules. Placed in the bosom of fallen creatures is the Law which the ink of God’s pen has tattooed on our hearts. The Law is about doing. It is up to me. Even an atheist believes good things are worth doing even if he can’t define why they’re really good. When we know that doing good is worth doing, we can choose our own adventure. We can wink at the heavens and move our feet in the direction we decide to go. Sometimes we decide to go off the road. Sometimes we decide to fight. Sometimes we decide to talk to someone and sometimes we don’t. The decisions are ours because it’s my life. If I want to get to heaven, then I can just be good (or good enough). When I see God after I die, I’ll give Him my list of good deeds. He’ll have to let me in, right? Wrong.
Any action that we are given to do is always the Law. The kicker is this, the Law promises eternal life but it also demands more than you’ll ever have. It tells you that you can win gold in the Olympics but sadly you’re six feet under. The Law can never ever save you. It can tell you what is good and right but you’ll never live up to it. Those who think they can are like Narcissus staring at himself in the water while he wastes away yet all that’s left behind is dry bones. What boggles my mind is that even Christians will agree that they can’t reach heaven on their own and then turn around and tell people to save themselves. With moody music in the background they tell people to choose Jesus, come to Jesus, accept Jesus into their hearts. Their weekly sermons are all about living a better Christian life. They Fall back into the same old story, wanting to choose their own adventure.
The Christian story is not “Choose Your Own Adventure”. The Christian story is a man who knows that drinking is killing him and his family but he doesn’t know how to stop. It’s about a tired, lonely old woman whose family lives too far away to really care all that much. It’s about a girl who sleeps with a boy because she thinks he’ll give her that feeling of acceptance she’s longed for. It’s about broken people who are too pathetic to save themselves. Our human condition is so bad that not one of us would ever make it into heaven no matter how many old ladies you help across the street or billions of dollars you give to charity. Being good is not good enough.
The Christian story is about Christ, not us. While we were God’s gleeful enemies, Jesus Christ died for us. He gathered our deepest, darkest, and most hated secrets upon Himself. He knows what you have done and instead of turning away He paid a price, His own blood. He sends His people to declare to the weak and suffering old lady that Jesus died for her and that makes her worth everything. He beckons the girl on Sunday morning to know that she doesn’t have to sleep with others to find true and lasting love. Right next to her is a blearied eyed man who weeps as he approaches the altar where there is a drink that gives more relief than anything he can find in the store. Jesus gathers scarred people to Himself for His own adventure. Jesus chooses you. That is the story of the Gospel. Thanks be to God that He does so each and every day.