I think purpose is pretty important. It gives direction and meaning, such that it feels like we’re actually doing something with our lives, contributing to something greater. It can help us through hardship, allowing us, despite the difficulties we face, to keep on striving. But purpose is only truly valuable if derived from a good source. How much meaning we gain from something depends a lot on that 'something' we are looking to gain meaning from. I think many of us would really love a cause, but we find it difficult to find a cause we can get behind, a cause actually worth living for.
When I arrived in Oxford, I don’t think any of this was really on my mind. I was pretty happy with myself for getting in, and I think for my first term at least I was far more concerned with enjoying myself than reflecting on greater meaning. But as time went by, and I looked at myself and other students, I began to wonder about what we were actually living for. The Oxford life which had been so hyped up before I arrived seemed to largely consist of working very hard at a subject I didn’t necessarily enjoy that much, to get a first, hopefully get that job or internship, and occasionally going out and getting smashed. As much as the world around me told me I’d made it, I also had the slight feeling I was wasting my life. I looked around me for something to give value - doing charity work, being a good friend, helping the environment. But as much as I could see these were good things, I had no real foundation to enable me to tell you why these aims were of value, and was hampered by the concern I was doing these thing to boost my ego, rather than out of genuine concern for others.
Well, I’m glad to tell you that I eventually found a cause to get behind - although it might be slightly misleading to call it a cause, as it is actually a person. Namely, the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Now you might think it’s a bit weird to have a bloke who lived two thousand years ago. Sure, he might have some nice teachings, but that’s it, isn’t it? When I look at the person of Jesus, I see something radically different. Not just some moralist, but someone who made sense of the things I considered to be of value, who had compassion on the outcasts and the marginalised, who hated injustice and hypocrisy, and was willing to give up everything for his friends. Someone who was perfectly virtuous, and had great power, yet did not lord it over people, but came to serve humanity. And someone who ultimately showed the most unprecedented act of self-sacrifice, choosing to be tortured and executed, despite being completely innocent, out of love for his enemies. Jesus did not just talk about good ideals; he fully and completely embodied them.
And thankfully, Jesus is far more even than this. Following Jesus is not just about following his example, but actually having a relationship with him. After Jesus was executed, he didn’t stay dead, but was miraculously resurrected, and then ascended into heaven. As much as this might sound completely ridiculous to you, it was actually the historical evidence for this event that persuaded me of the truth of Christianity. And if Jesus did rise from the dead, that changes everything. Jesus stops being an ideal of showing love to others, but a living being who, amazingly, I can have a personal relationship with. To follow a good cause or leader might be great things, but to follow someone who is not just clearly good to follow, but who you know, and who you are confident loves you and is working for your good is truly remarkable. Jesus is not just a cause, he’s a friend.
That’s why I think Jesus is a cause worth living for. Maybe you’re not convinced, however. Was Jesus really that great? And does he really love me? Or maybe you think that it would be great if it were true, but surely you can’t think this guy was the son of God, and rose from the dead. Well, if that’s you, I’d challenge you to investigate for yourself; read an account of Jesus’ life, and look into whether it’s intellectually viable. It might just change your life.