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When I speak to groups of unbelievers and skeptics, as I do on a regular basis, I get questions that to many Christians would seem so ridiculous that they do not deserve an answer. One of the reasons for that is that many of us are so far from the thinking of the average person on the street that we do not understand their whole view of life. In a recent private conversation with a young woman whose parents were Christians, I had one of those questions. She looked at me, shook her head and said “It doesn't look like your Christianity has done much for you, it hasn't done anything for my parents, and I don't see what's in it for me.”

There are so many problems with that last sentence that it is hard to know where to start. For many of us the answer comes out in a single word — SALVATION! For this 16-year-old, salvation was something you think about when you are old and about to die. She told me she did not know about eternity and salvation, but she had learned not to believe everything the preacher said. She then repeated her statement “What is in it for me if I become a ‘Christian?’ ” “There are incredible things in it for you if you follow the biblical plan for life,” I finally said. Then I began to enumerate them.


We live in a world where marriage and the traditional family model are ridiculed and denigrated. We now have those who want “marriage” to include polygamy, polyandry, group marriage, same-sex marriage, and even marriage with animals. In addition, more and more people are living together and having children together without any kind of marriage being involved. Add to that, divorce has become easier and more readily accepted than in the past. Single parents, integrated and melded families, and foster parent-led families are the majority of living arrangements in which children find themselves.

The bottom line here is that in all of these situations there is a lack of stability and children are forced into radical change. Study after study shows that children brought up in environments where there is massive change have problems which are caused by this instability. What is in it if you become a Christian and live in the kind of home that God intended for us to have? It will be a home where there is commitment between a man and a woman. It will be not only a commitment to sexual fidelity, but also a home where husbands love their wives as themselves, and women respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). It will be a home where every time you come home you know who will be there and that their love for you is unconditional. It will be a home where children obey and honor parents, and fathers work very hard at not exasperating their children (Ephesians 6:1 – 4).

These instructions are not unrealistic pipe-dreams. They are guidelines that are proven to work and to provide stability that allows children to develop into productive citizens. Whether you are a man, a woman, or a child, this plan works and gives the kind of stability and love we all strive for. Every other “social experiment” offered as an alternative to this model has shown great weaknesses, and when people who claim to be Christians do not follow the admonitions God has given us, the result is inevitably heartbreak and emotional pain.


One major unique characteristic of Christianity is that it is not a religion of rigid commandments. Colossians 2:13 – 14 refers to Jesus nailing the written code, with its regulations to his cross. The Greek word for commandment is entole, which is defined as “thing given in charge.” What is it that is “in charge” in Christianity? John 13:34 – 35 (ESV) finds Jesus giving his followers a new commandment. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” In 1 John 2:7 – 10 John expands on the love concept by saying that the difference between walking in light and in darkness is our capacity to love our brother.

What a contrast this is with the world around us. We live in a world where everything is built around ourselves and using other people. Slavery of all kinds is a major issue in the world. To have a belief system based on caring for others and loving others is incredibly unique. What does Christianity bring to you? It brings a group of people who care about you and will not use you or force you into a life you do not want.


One of the attractions that all religions offer in one way or another is a moral code to live by. Those who study cults and why cults attract people, conclude that cults offer discipline and a guide to making decisions in life that are fixed and offer structure to life. The problem with these man-made sources is that there is always a leader who uses the cult for his own satisfaction and pleasure.

The Bible’s moral code has been proven to work for several thousand years. Whenever mankind has chosen to modify or avoid a moral principle found in the Bible, the result has been catastrophic. What is especially unique about the Bible is that it does not just set up a group of laws to be enforced by a police or military enforcer. Reading Matthew chapters 5 through 7 one sees that attitudes and guidelines for moral principles are given. Jesus does not just say, “Don't murder.” What Jesus does is to get at the root of the issue by forbidding his followers to hate. If you do not hate, murder will not happen. Jesus does not just tell his followers to avoid illicit sexual issues, He goes beyond that and tells his followers to watch how they think. The Christian system works! Those of us, like your author, who have tried to live by human systems can tell you from cold, hard personal experience that these human creations do not work. First Corinthians 15:33 warns us that the people we run around with will affect our morality. What a joy it is to be with a group of people who are not out to “score.” We can relax and enjoy each other’s company knowing that those around us are secure and have no interest in using sex as a tool of control and exploitation.


Being a Christian brings a person into an understanding that real joy in life comes not from using others or controlling them, but from serving them. Acts 20:35 tells us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” That is a true statement. The promise of God is that when we give, “it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38, NIV). Jesus commanded what is necessary to have a fulfilling life in John 13:4 – 17. He washed the feet of his disciples and commanded them to “wash one another's feet.” Serving others is key to fulfillment in life.

What all of this is about is giving Christians a template by which to build the best life we can have on earth. I have lived as an atheist. I have seen that the “survival of the fittest” worldview is not a way to build a meaningful life. As a Christian, I have found incredible fulfillment. My Christian beliefs led me to a successful teaching career and to a life of ministering to the needs of others. This is not a glory trip or an ego trip, but a way of building a successful and meaningful life. No other system on earth does this. Christianity and the Christian way of thinking leads us to great joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment. The alternatives lead to frustration and a never-ending obsession with things and survival.


Unless there is a purpose in living, the issue of suffering and pain in life can never make sense. Atheism criticizes God for allowing bad things to happen, but then deny there is any real value to good or evil. Atheist Richard Dawkins in his book River Out of Eden claims that there is no such thing as evil.

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.1

I have had some significant problems in life. My son was born blind, mentally challenged, with a form of muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and schizophrenia. I lost my wife of 49 years to insulin-dependent type-1 diabetes. I mention all this simply to say that it has been my Christian faith that has allowed me to maintain a high quality of life, an optimistic spirit, a continued drive to achieve certain goals, and a deep involvement in a variety of activities in spite of all of these challenges. In the teachings of Jesus I see this same thing present in the people of Jesus' day. In John 9:1 – 3 Jesus deals with a family that had a son born blind. When asked why this blindness happened the response of Jesus was, “… that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (verse 3). In Luke 8:26 – 40 a man in the country of the Gadarenes was severely afflicted with mental illness. Jesus cured him of the malady that had separated him from his family and caused him to live a destructive life in the city cemetery. When the man asked to go with Jesus after he was healed, and be separated from his past, Jesus told him to go and tell people what had happened to him. The man did so with great success.

This is how Christians deal with problems and tragedies in life. Bad things happen to everyone, but only in Christianity do we see purpose and meaning to what has happened — and a way to use the problems in a positive, constructive manner. This has to be one of the most blessed reasons for being a Christian on a purely practical level.


In reality, the very first reaction mentioned in this article is a major blessing of being a Christian. There is no guarantee that a 16-year-old will ever see her 17th birthday. Dying is not just for old people. Every day our local newspaper shows that a young person's life has ended. Christians do not have to be worried about the frailty of life. The answer “salvation” IS a major reason for being a Christian on a practical level. It cannot be dismissed as trivial, and the security and lack of fear generated by having hope cannot be ignored.

What is in it for me? Eternal life, in addition to all the fringe benefits of having great things brought to us in this life. Thank God for Jesus Christ, for what he taught, how he lived, and what he calls us to do and to be. Paul's frequent assertions that all he needed was Christ for success in life and in eternity, remains true for every one of us. (See Galatians 2:20, Philippians 1:21 – 23, and 4:13).


1. Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (New York: BasicBooks, 1995), page 133.

— John N. Clayton

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