MOST OF THE friends I grew up with in church youth group don’t call themselves Christians anymore. They left church behind years ago. Yet here I am, still a very churchy Christian. Why have I stayed in the faith after all these years? Why do we keep doing this Christian thing?
We are tempted to convince ourselves that God will reward our faithfulness with blessings—either in this life or the next. This is a Christian logic as old as the Bible, a theology taken from the lips of Jesus himself: “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4). Prosperity theology isn’t an aberration but a perennial Christian impulse, an urge within all of us as we try to justify to ourselves our faith.
This way of thinking about beliefs, according to Meister Eckhart, turns God into a cow. “People look upon God with the eyes with which they look upon a cow,” he preached in the 14th century. “To love God the way they love a cow, because it gives you milk and cheese. This is how people behave who want to love God because of external wealth or inner comfort ... they love their self-interest.”
This month’s stories from Mark’s gospel invite us into the disciples’ struggle to understand why they’ve chosen to follow Jesus. Discipleship, we’ll discover, is a constant exposure to the selfish motives for our faith as we stumble into God’s truth—that, as Eckhart preached, “God loves us without a why.” God loves us without a reason, without making calculations. God loves us because God loves us.