ERROL CASTENS: A God who reaches to us

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

Every year as Christians commemorate the death and resurrection of their Savior, I offer an unobjective and personal view of Jesus and why I am compelled, however pitiful the effort, to follow him.
It’s not because some of my forebears were Christians. Genetics influences a host of factors, and being raised by Christian parents may expose one to the religion’s teachings and practices. But it’s rebirth, not birth, that makes one a Christian. (As the saying goes, God has a lot of children but no grandchildren.)
Christianity also isn’t conveyed by my happening to be a Mississippian, a Southerner, an American, an English speaker or even just a member of Western civilization. Christianity affects culture and, sadly, culture affects Christianity, but a default-setting Christianity is not devotion to Christ.
I’m not promoting an elitist kind of Christianity, though. Another old saying: Evangelism is nothing more than one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. It’s not because I’m good that I follow Jesus, but because I’m not nearly good enough.
I’ve messed people over, occasionally by intent and often by weakness. I’ve sometimes hurt those people who loved me most. More tragic yet is how I’ve dishonored God by wanting him to run the world my way, to dispense justice at my direction, to give me what I want when and how and where I want it, and letting fear and distrust – which I must admit are directed at him – color my every thought and action.
The Christian God is a God of infinite justice, who will not let evil go unpunished. But the Christian God is also a God of infinite mercy, who took my punishment upon himself. Like the good professor in Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Men,” who would not excuse a child’s lies but took the swats for and from the offender, Jesus underwent humiliation, torture and death to illustrate just how pervasive is human sin yet how deep is his devotion to humanity. Yet being God, he also took up his life again and lives in his followers.
That is what we so famously commemorate this weekend, even if the message sometimes gets camouflaged by the add-ons.
Every person must decide whether he believes that God exists. If he concludes in the affirmative, as the existence of the universe compels me to, every person is left with the question of how to relate to that God.
Many religions offer a deity that man may reach if he is good enough.
Christianity offers a Savior who reaches to people such as I, who know they can never be good enough.
Contact Errol Castens at errol.castens@journalinc.com.