Understanding the Why – Homily, April 24, 2016

“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:35).

These are Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel and they are the very essence of a defining characteristic.

Do you remember this song: “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love…” (Carolyn Arends)?

Why are you a Christian?  Why?

Simon Sinek, author and lecturer, asserts that leaders and organizations can be differentiated by those that focus on the why and those that focus on the what.  As an example, he described Apple’s attempt to create an mp3 player, the iPod, and Dell’s.  Just about everyone owned an iPod or at least knows what they are.  No one bought the Dell.  Dell focused on the what: it plays mp3 files, it’s not expensive.  Apple focused on the why: people desire an easy to use and elegant device that stores and plays songs.  They called them songs, not mp3 files.

Another example is that of Samuel Pierpont Langley.  Have you ever heard of him?  I thought not.  He was a pioneer in the effort to design and create an aircraft that would allow a person to achieve flight.  He was highly educated, massively funded, had access to all of the best and brightest of his day.  But he failed.  The Wright Brothers, a ragtag team of bicycle shop owners with limited resources and little help, were the ones who succeeded.  I know you’ve heard of them.  Simon notes that Samuel wanted fame and riches.  He wanted to be the very first.  As soon as the Wright Brothers were successful, Samuel quit the endeavor entirely.  The Wright Brothers wanted to change the world.  Samuel thought about the what.  The Wright Brothers the why.

Let’s look at our faith through Simon Sinek’s lens.  Let’s ask ourselves if we are Christians because of the what… or the why.

I am a Christian because that’s how I was brought up.  That’s the what.

I am a Christian because that’s what I learned, what I practice.  The what.

I am a Christian because I want to get to heaven.  I would say that that is still… the what.

I am a Christian because I have a personal relationship with Jesus.  I love him and deeply feel his love for me.  I seek to follow, to serve, to live fully in the joy and promise of his teachings.  Now that is a why…

We can be guided by our upbringing.  We can become educated about it.  We can desire eternal happiness.  But to have a personal relationship with Christ requires… well, it requires everything that all relationships require.  An investment of time.  An emotional commitment.  Listening.  Openness.  Sincerity.  Humility.  Vulnerability.  These are the very things that can make or break our relationships here in this life and it’s no different in the life of Christ.

Do people look at us and say “that person is a Christian”?  If they do so only because they see us coming into this building once a week… or because we wear crosses around our necks… or because we post Christian sounding things on Facebook… or because we tell people we are Christian, then we are most assuredly not meeting the definition that Christ set regarding discipleship.

Sometimes it’s complicated.  Sometimes we make it complicated.

But sometimes it’s easy.  Today’s Gospel message is easy.  Why?

Let’s show them we are Christians by our love.  By our love.

That is… the why.

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