Column: Christ invites, not forces us, to know him

by Matt Karr

“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

These are not the words of an evangelical preacher; rather, they are the words of
Pope Benedict XVI. The Catholic faith is based on a living encounter with Jesus Christ. This encounter is decisive in our lives as Catholics.

The encounter starts with love. God tells his people: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness” (Jer 31: 3). The whole of human history is ordered toward the love that never ends (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 25). God reveals his plan for us when he says: “For I know well the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jer 29: 11).

God’s plan for you is to live with him forever.

However, there is a problem: sin. St. Paul writes: “All men have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God” (Rom 3: 23). It is because of our sin that we have ruptured our relationship with God and forfeited eternal life. The wages of our sin is death and we cannot mend the relationship with our own power (see Ps 49:8-9).

But despite our sins, God still loves us. The Father sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to become one of us and take care of our sin problem and restore us to relationship with the Father. This is proof of God’s love.

As St. Paul says: “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5: 8). Jesus Christ suffered and died for your sins. However, death could not hold him down, and he rose triumphantly over the grave. The Father has now raised up Jesus as both Lord and Messiah.

We are invited through faith and the Holy Spirit to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ and make him the center of our lives. Jesus tells us:

“Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him may not die but may have eternal life” (Jn 3: 16). You are invited to enter into a real personal relationship with Jesus.

However, Jesus will not force an encounter with you. You must decide if Jesus Christ will be the center of your life. This sober encounter sets the decisive direction for life. Jesus demands that we be “all in” with him. After encountering Jesus, the disciples “immediately left their nets and followed him” (Mt 4:20). You are invited to do the same.

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