A brother, possessed by sadness and melancholy, went to an Elder and asked of him: “What am I to do? My thoughts present me with the idea that perhaps in vain I denied the world and that I cannot be saved.”
Thoughtfully, the Elder answered as follows:
“My child, even if we do not succeed in reaching the promised land, it is better that we should give our carcasses to the desert than return to the Egypt of fearful enslavement” (Numbers 14:29-33).
St. Amphilochios, from “The Evergetinos”( One of the classic collections of Orthodox spiritual writings)
My friend, Lorna, has been a follower of Jesus for a long time. She is one of the few people in the world that I really trust, and consequently is one of the people who can say hard things to me out of “tough love” and really get my attention.
We don’t see as much of each other as we used to, but when we do, we talk a lot.
We’d already caught up with the news about our many mutual acquaintances, and had passed on to talking about my disappointments over my return to church and the current health of my faith.
“I was thinking,” said Lorna, hesitantly. I waited to see what was coming.
“Even if it wasn’t really true, Jesus and all that, I’d still be glad I’d chosen to live my life this way,” she said.
I thought about it too. I’ve always believed that, assurance and faith aside, sometimes we have to have the humility to admit that there’s a possibility, however slim, that we might be wrong. Otherwise we become the sort of dogmatic, judgemental sort of evangelical Christian that does the love and grace of God no credit…and I go that way sometimes too, if I’m honest.
So, supposing Jesus wasn’t really the Son of God, just a remarkably wise founder of a counter-cultural way of life. Or supposing, even, that the historical Jesus never existed, and that the writings and sayings were made up by another, just as remarkable, individual or group of people (I grew up on all the apologetics stuff, so even now I think what I’ve just said is unlikely, but bear with me!)
I could sit around bewailing all the wild hedonism and unbridled passion that I’ve missed out on, the ambitions I could have fulfilled and the people I could have trodden on, or…
…I could be thankful for a life where I’ve tried to live modestly, to treat others as I’d like to be treated, to pray for change and see it happen, to care about the people marginalised by everyone else (which I’m not very good at), to have a purpose in life, to know that even the worst failure in myself and others is never terminal and a host of other positive things that I hazard to guess I would not have embraced without my faith in Jesus.
If I hadn’t been a Christian for the best part of my life you would not have wanted to know me (some of you don’t even though I have been one…I still have a long way to go, I guess, but I haven’t given up yet). A life like the one Jesus lived (in fact or as a story) is a very attractive one, relationally, spiritually, morally…and actually, it’s been an exciting and challenging ride.
So a life lived as a follower of Jesus, trying to be faithful to all that entails…no regrets!