Last night I had the opportunity to speak to the teens of my church, Maltby Christian Assembly. It is one of the few times I’ve had to speak to such a group since I stopped being a full-time youth minister a little over two years ago. I was excited to have had this opportunity, and look forward to more in the future.
The youth ministry is currently in the midst of a series based on student questions about faith and life, and the topic I was assigned for the night was this: “Why did God create us?” A tall order, obviously. To address the question, I decided to borrow three basic yet powerful thoughts from a book (Courage and Calling: Embracing Your God-Given Potential) we’re using in a first-year orientation course at the university I teach. Focused less on cosmic issues than the personal ways in which we experience our faith and life, my hope was that the short list would connect with the students in a meaningful way. Here they are:
- God created us because he loves us and wants to have a relationship with us. We believe that the Almighty God of the universe is completely complete without need for anything. God has no “boss” and is free to do whatever God wants. And yet, of all that God could do, God chose to make the universe. That’s an important realization. Genesis 1 says it well: sun, stars, earth, plants, sea, birds, fish…and last of all, us. And then he proclaimed it “very good.” God loves us. When Adam and Eve rejected that love, God did not give up, but worked to redeem them. To redeem us. Why? Because God loves us. Through the work of Christ, God has provided a way for that love to exist in relationship with us again. As I often told my youth ministry in years past, God loves us…and there’s nothing we can do about that. We can accept or reject it, but it never changes.
- God created us each for a special and unique purpose. Theologically, we call this vocation. This is an exciting idea to think about in general, but especially with adolescents, many of whom are struggling with issues of identity and purpose. To know that there is a reason we exist–not in general, but in particular–is powerful. It resonates, I believe. And it makes us think about our gifts, interests, talents, and what God might be preparing us for (Ephesians 2:10). One of the privileges of working with teens and college students is helping them walk through this process and getting to see certain aspects of the this God-given plan click into place in their lives.
- God created us for things to do right now. So often in youth ministries we hear that students are the “future of the Church” or that one day they’ll make a great difference. While both of these things may be true, there is also a deep sense in which focusing so much up future vocation or destiny ignores the way in which people of faith–at any age–are called to lives their lives in the present. In the everyday. Here I reference Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40, in which he tells an interlocutor which is the greatest commandment: loving of God and neighbor. That’s it. Jesus is asked a direct question, and instead of turning the question around, telling a parable, or some other response…he just gives a direct answer. It is a powerful one, and reminds us that we are supposed to live in God’s love. Not simply as something to experience inside of us, but in all areas of our life. It is an idea as simple as it is profound, and must needs echo throughout our lives. Loving God and by extension those around us is what God created us to do right now. Not an arcane list of rules or do’s and don’ts, but a relationship of love.
Relationship, vocation, and a daily life of love. These are the areas in which I sought to encourage our students. It is my hope that the words were received as a powerful reminder of why God created us…and also why that matters.