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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






20 August 2005

The Purpose and Meaning of Life


Q: What are Christianity’s viewpoints on the meaning of life?

A: All life has meaning according to the Christian Church because all life is created by and flows from God. Life was the first gift to man, wherein God himself breathed into the lump of clay he had formed and Adam became a living soul.

Sin, however, has twisted life — both human and animal — into a mockery of what God intended. Sickness, suffering, and death were not intended to be part of our existence but are the result of Adam’s fall into sin.

All life has the purpose of living and glorifying its creator. The animal kingdom does this merely by being, but humanity is also called to believe in and worship its Creator; in fact, our highest purpose is to be God’s and to be as he intends us to be. Man was created as friend and companion of God and as servant, called to tend the garden into which our first parents were placed and to extend the order and structure of that garden into the rest of the earth.

Sadly, this has all been lost or distorted. Self-love, self-worship, and self-service replace love for God and fellow-man, worship of God, and service to God through serving each other. The strongest object of our affections has become ourselves and our possessions rather than our God. Part of the work of the Holy Spirit, flowing from Christ’s redemptive work of living a perfect life of obedience to his Father and service to mankind, is to restore true purpose to our lives. He works to make us content in whatever life we are called to lead, giving us a sense of Christian Vocation (that is, we worship and serve God by serving our fellow man in those things that we are and do, as husband or wife, parent or child, employer or employee, student, retiree, or in any other situation).

Ultimately, our purpose is to receive the fullness of the new life we already have through Baptism and faith in Christ Jesus in the resurrection and eternal life with God. At that time, we will finally be able to live the lives our first parents were created to live. Our meaning will again be involved in a proper relationship with our Creator, one of openness and love without end.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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