Can you summarize the meaning of life into one simple sentence?
Well, if you consult the Hitchhiker’s guide, the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is simply 42.
If you ask the Physicists, the answer to the ultimate question as to why we exist lie in what is known as the Unified Field Theory. Basically, if you can explain why the Big Bang occurred and come up with an equation to represent it, you would have distilled the meaning of life into one simple equation. Modern Unified Field Theory attempts to bring the four fundamental forces in the universe into a single framework, thus explaining the very nature of existence. OK, physics is not one of my favorite subjects so that is about all that I can make out of it.
But how is 42 or a mathematical equation going to help you understand your meaning and purpose in life? How is E=MC2 going to solve the problem of evil in the world? Obviously it can’t, which is why there is philosophy and religion. These two exist because there is an undeniable need for us to explain things which science can’t. You can explain how a baby comes into the world with biology, but you can’t explain why that smile makes you melt. You see, even if you think that the answer to the meaning of life is 42, that does not give you any direction on how to live your life.
If you google “The meaning of life” on the internet, you will get a whole cornucopia of articles. Perhaps for some, the meaning of their life is to find the answer to the meaning of life. However, if instead of “The meaning of life” you re-word the question to “The meaning of your life” then the answer becomes more practical and relevant. So if you cast your mind to someone whom you love who has passed on, you can more easily summarize into one paragraph, the meaning of that person’s life.
This weekend is Easter and it is during this time that Christians remember the death of Jesus Christ. So what is the meaning of his life and how is it relevant to us? If I were a reporter at the scene of his death on the cross, my one paragraph summary of the life of Jesus Christ might sound something like this:
“Yesterday saw the crucifixion of the 33 year of carpenter from Nazareth, ending the very short life of the self styled revolutionary who attracted a huge following with his charismatic sermons and uncanny ability to perform miracles. The “Rabbi” or “Teacher” as they called him was found guilty of sedition against the Roman empire and was sentenced to death by crucifixion. His disciples, which at one stage numbered in the thousands were nowhere to be seen. Jesus was known and admired by many to be a great teacher who preached peace and non-violence and was considered by some to be the possible Messiah. It looks like they were wrong… again.”
However, after his death, something amazing happened which changed the once cowardly disciples into men who would eventually sacrifice their own lives for his cause. Christians call this event, “The Resurrection”. There are numerous books written about the Resurrection. One particular classic is “Who Moved the Stone?” which was written by a skeptic who started off wanting to write a book to refute the Resurrection, but eventually became a believer himself after considering the weight of the evidence. I guess, there would be other books written to disprove the Resurrection, but to me, the evidence that the Resurrection did indeed occur lies in the existence of Christianity itself.
What happened on Easter Sunday that changed the cowardly disciples into men of great valour? Jesus died without leaving behind any books about his teachings. He only left behind his disciples. If his disciples were all in hiding during Good Friday, what made them suddenly turn into martyrs, if not for the fact that they had really seen the Resurrected Jesus? The existence of Christians today hinges on this fact.
One of his disciples was so transformed by the Resurrection event that he eventually wrote the very familiar words that summarizes the meaning of Jesus’s life into one elegant sentence.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
So what then is the meaning of life and how can we summarize the meaning of our lives into one sentence?
I have been thinking about this for a while and I believe that there are common threads that are found in many philosophies and religions of the world. These all revolve around doing good for humanity, loving and serving others, not having hatred in our hearts and having an attitude of gratitude.
If you look closely at John 3:16, you will notice that there are three key verbs. These are “love”, “give” and “believe”. These three verbs summarizes the meaning of the life of Jesus and I believe they also apply to us. So basically, we humans are created to believe in God and to love and to give of ourselves in service to others.
This is in fact what the Ten Commandments instruct us to do. One Jewish Teacher of the Law summarized the Ten Commandments succinctly as:
” Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
I think this one verse is actually the answer to the meaning of life which I have been searching for. I had thought that the answer would make up a thesis of sorts but I think the answer is as simple as a verse which I must have read it hundreds of times over.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you have any questions about Jesus and the meaning of Easter, please do write to me at [email protected]. If you are still wondering what to do on the morning of Good Friday, do join us at Chinese Swimming Club at 10am for our Easter gathering followed by a buffet Lunch. All you have to do is to tell the Security that you are coming for the TGIF event.
May I take this opportunity to wish all Christians a very Blessed Easter!