The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. -Mark Twain.
In Pastor Rick Warren’s 2002 book, The Purpose Driven Life, he references five different reasons as to why we were put here by God.
- First: “We were planned for God’s pleasure. – first purpose then is to offer worship.”
- Second: “We were formed for God’s family – second purpose – enjoy fellowship.”
- Third: “We were created to become Christ-like. The third purpose – learn to be a disciple.
- Fourth: “We were shaped for serving God. – our fourth purpose – perform ministry.”
- The fifth and final purpose: “We were made for a mission – in his words live Evangelism.”
The answer to the question “What is our purpose?” in the Baltimore Catechism is: “We were born to know, love and serve God in this world and in heaven.” Is this old nugget of wisdom still the best answer for why we are here? Pastor Warren’s five concepts are saying much of the same things as the Baltimore Catechism.
Ideas and opinions about what our purpose is vary from each individual and their backgrounds. Just to name a few: “I was meant to be here to raise my family.” Or “I was meant to be a strong athlete and show the world what I can do.” Or “I was born to become rich and famous!”
I would like to go out on a limb here and say I believe we all have the same purpose for being here! Your response to this is, “What? That’s ridiculous. With billions living in the world are you suggesting that in spite of our varied backgrounds, ages, religions, ideologies, cultures, histories, and so on, how can we all the same reason for being here?”
Why do I say this? Because God is love! Let me rephrase that: God is perfect love! This is my first observation that is at the core of the answer to why I believe we were put here. We are only presented with a few opportunities to know perfect love. We spend our lives seeking love. But it would seem our understanding and exposure to perfect love is not as obvious. So when does it happen?
Certainly one time is when we hold a newborn child moments after they have been born. I can remember the moment I held my daughter for the first time. I felt this overpowering and overwhelming sense of love when they placed her in my arms.
Another time could be when we are with someone at the moment of death. My sister Mary tells me about being with my mother at the moment she took her last breath. She was hit with how similar it felt when she first held one of her children after they were born. To watch my mother “let go and let God” at the time of her death was like watching a miracle.
Essentially these are examples of our truly giving of ourselves to someone and by doing so, we have changed that person’s life. I think these moments give us the opportunity to know perfect love; at the same time we are learning about God’s capacity for love.
We are made in God’s image. I therefore came to the conclusion our purpose is to give love and receive love just as God does for us. Is it really that uncomplicated? Well, actually it can be very complicated. Using the love a parent feels for a child as an example. We love our children regardless of what they do or will ever do: mistakes and all. This is no different than the love God has for us. God’s capacity for love is intertwined with His capacity for forgiveness.
How many people do we come in contact with every day? Even if it is brief, we are here to love each person. I use to know a homeless man that I saw daily while driving to work. He mentioned to me once that he appreciated my giving him coffee or a doughnut, but what he truly loved was my willingness to talk to him. I think what he was trying to tell me is I was validating him as a person, a child of God worthy of love.
“To love another person is to see the face of God.” (Victor Hugo, Les Miserables)
If we are capable of loving others with our heart and soul, then we are capable of forgiveness and kindness and compassion. All of the five items mentioned by Pastor Warren are possible when done out of love for each other and subsequently by God.
What about those people who are full of hate and anger and hurt others? How can we love them? God’s answer to this: “They likely need it most of all!” I think our role is to extend a hand with every person, whether it is a waitress, a cab driver, a cashier, a teacher, a nurse or a doctor; reach inside yourself and extend a word of kindness or even a gesture that shows you care.
I said to my sister who recently lost her husband of 42 years. “I’m certain he fulfilled his purpose. He so much loved his family and her, his grandchildren, his sister and brother in laws, his siblings, his parents, and his friends; but mostly he loved God. All of his actions pointed to this love of God leading his way to loving others.”
I don’t mean to oversimplify our purpose for being born. I think Jesus said it best when he was asked the question, “What is the most important commandment?“ His answer was straightforward and to the point.
He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
When we understand this, we understand our purpose for being here!
Copyright 2019 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh