Not long ago a woman, upon learning I am a minister, asked a straightforward question (which implied that she thinks many clergy may be opportunistic Elmer Gantry types). She said: “What are you peddling?” It could have been more politely phrased, but at least it was honest. “What are you peddling?” I answered: “Life.” She continued: “I thought you were peddling Jesus,” to which I replied: “I think He is the quickest and surest way to get what I am peddling."
I’m not sure she whether she was intrigued or amused, but she kept the exchange going. “So,” she said, “if I were to buy into what you’re offering, what would I get?” I figured honesty is always the best policy, so that’s how I answered: “You do not get thinner. You do not get younger. Your cholesterol, blood pressure, and sugar numbers do not go down. You do not suddenly become wealthy. What you get is Life.” At that point she did not respond. She just looked at me with an expression that was either curious or dubious or both, so I plunged ahead. “You get two things: the knowledge that life makes sense … and that you’re glad to be a part of it.” There was only another minute of conversation, mostly polite and superficial, so I have no idea if she bought what I was peddling. But I hope she is at least thinking about it.
I do believe that the life and teachings of Jesus reveal to us a way of living that makes sense. It’s not always easy, mind you, but it’s always right. He teaches us about radical loving (even when that means dealing with people who are not easy to love), about the necessity of forgiving, about sacrificing to help our neighbors, about being inclusive (relating to people whom others would push aside), and about seeing both neighbor and self as sacred creations of God. Those are not easy lessons to learn (or to put into practice), but think what the world would look like if everyone embraced those principles. There would be no war, no abuse, no terrorism, no violence, no starvation, no abject poverty, and no neglected people on either extreme of the age spectrum. Life would not be perfect, mind you. There would still be challenges and illness and death. But, life would be infinitely better than we know it now, indescribably kinder and more peaceful, if people would simply take Jesus seriously. Life would begin to make sense.
Admittedly, neither you nor I can make the whole world take Jesus seriously. But, we can do so individually. We can begin to listen more closely and follow more intentionally. And when we do that, who knows effect it may have? One person can become a light that shatters darkness. One individual’s behavior can have a ripple effect, altering the behaviors of multiple others. But whatever the generated effects may (or may not) be, this much is certain: When we follow Jesus, He leads us to Life – life that makes sense, life with meaning and purpose. And once we find that, we’re glad to be part of it. In short, we come alive! That’s what I’m peddling. That’s what I believe in.