I have stacks of facebook friends!! Around 1,111 at the moment. I would say i actually know 70 to 80% of them, and the rest are just random people who added me and I accepted. I try not to be a facebook snob so as long as the picture isn’t some girl in a bikini and soap suds, i pretty much add the person. Anyways, i occasionally have random contact with the 30 to 20% of facebook “friends” that i do not really know. Sometimes it is in the form of a message or a wall post, it is often in the form of an invitation for some weird application or another that i never add, and occasionally some stranger, yet “friend”, will interrupt my facebook session by chatting to me. This happened late one night about two weeks ago.
I don’t remember what time it was but it was late and i couldn’t sleep, so i got on facebook. I was just doing the usual facebook “thing” when all of the sudden a little chat box popped up on my screen. I did not recognize the name of the person chatting and thought it might end up being one of those spam chat messages. I looked at the text and it said, in all caps, “WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?” I sat there with a weird “Am i Neo in the Matrix?” type feeling. You know that part in the beginning of the movie when he is on his computer and then his “computer” starts talking back to him? Yeah! I recalled all the things Neo went through after responding to his cryptic message late one night and i pondered whether i was up for such adventure. I decided i was still not very tired and didn’t really have anything better to do, so i responded.
I first wanted to make sure the dude was serious before i responded with some profound statement, so i asked, “Are you serious?”. Seconds later, again in all caps, his response came, “DEAD SERIOUS!”. Ok, now that i had established he was not joking around i had to be extra careful what i said to this guy that is obviously searching and reaching out. I sat there for a moment and really thought about it. What is the meaning of life? Wow! Good question! I responded, “My opinion, everybody’s different, and therefore find different meaning in different things and ways of life. For me it is to serve God and others, and make the biggest dent (of positive change) possible in the people and communities around me before i die.” That seemed to satisfy him and he sent back a very gracious message as to how he was encouraged by the statement and he thanked me.
That experience, mixed with the information in a book i am reading at the moment called UnChristian, really got me thinking about this whole “meaning of life” thing. We live in a world where people are truly looking for something meaningful in their lives: their “place”, their “purpose”, their greater calling, the very reason for their existence. And i do not think that this is a “want” within people, i believe that it is a deeply implanted NEED in each and every human being, and i also believe it was placed their by God. Sadly, I feel that often we as the church fail when it comes to an appropriate response to this need within people. We regularly meet this need with a shallow gospel that does not go beyond “Jesus saves” and rarely sees the person into a true discipleship. We meet this need with quirky phrases and “marketing tools” like tracts, that do not begin to scratch the surface of this deep and profound question within people. We meet their need for meaning by judging and condemning the things that they partake in in order to try and find meaning, and merely offer dead religion in return. We meet their need with a strict set of laws and tell them that there is “freedom in Christ”, but cannot see that we ourselves are bound.
Now, i am not trying to generalize and say that this is every Christian’s response to this question “what is the meaning of life”, but reading UnChristian (a book based on extensive research done about the perceptions of Christians and Christianity) i realise that those responses i just mentioned are the experiences and perceptions of a vast majority of nonChristians in America, and probably around the world. As Christians we should, more than anyone else, hold the answer to this important question, but we often do not know the answer ourselves, and therefore are not capable of answering the question when asked by others. I think it is vital that we all take a deep look within and ask that essential question to ourselves. What is the meaning of life? Is it to acquire as much wealth as possible, is it to serve yourself, is it to live by a rigid set of laws, is it to become the Pharisees of modern times? We have to be aware of the type of meaning that Jesus calls us to, really and truly seek it for ourselves and then we will be in the position to answer that question for others. If we ourselves do not live in a true way, finding the meaning that God intended for us, then any response we offer to a hurting, searching, and questioning world will be hollow and meaningless. We owe it to them to offer them more!