I tend to stay away from sentimental family dramas. But We Bought a Zoo had a reputable director (Cameron Crowe, Jerry Maguire, Elizabethtown) and an interesting premise. So we checked it out for our monthly rental. I thought it would just be a fun little flick to invest a couple hours into, but this movie had me crying long past the credit roll at the end – and not because of the animals. (Of course, this always gives Sarabeth a good laugh.) The premise is in the title. A widowed father of two buys a home on a closed zoo property and becomes the manager of the zoo grounds and invests all of his money to reopen it to the public. When asked why he did it, he answered, “Why not?”
Becoming a Christian is like buying a zoo. It is counter-intuitive, counter-cultural and counter-intelligent. Yes, becoming a Christian is absurd. You’re investing your life to a cause that will require your faith, devotion, finances, choices, soul and maybe even your life. Let’s look at some other absurd decisions made in history:
Walt Disney reinvested all of his revenue back into his movies, even though he had gone bankrupt twice. He became the founder of one of the greatest and most successful empires in entertainment history. His name is even more known that Theodore Roosevelt.
The invasion of Normandy could have caused the allies to lose the war. Instead, it turned the tide and today the world is free from vile Naziism and the free world is liberated from the tyranny of Communism.
A man named Paul was stoned, shipwrecked, beat, jailed and tortured for his belief in the resurrected Jesus Christ. But he kept preaching His story and defying the rulers who were dead-set against him, and hungry for his blood. Now, Paul’s testimony and his books have helped propel Christ’s movement throughout all the world setting captives free, from wealthy business tycoons to the lowliest tribesmen on the most distant islands. Millions of souls of will be in Heaven because of Paul’s words.
These were all absurd decisions.
Most things that are glorious on this side of Heaven (the pursuit of money, lust, certain tolerances) is an abomination on the other side of the Golden Gate. Anything that is stupid, or absurd, on this side of Heaven (self-giving, sacrifice, belief in an invisible, triune God) is glorious to God who sits on the throne.
To the outside observer, nothing about giving one’s life to Christ makes sense. “You’re relying on a dead Jew for the salvation of your soul?” “You’re praying to a God who allows children to be raped to give you grace?” “You’re giving how much to your church?”
There’s no doubt that the Christian life is a zoo. There are things that don’t make sense that even the greatest theologian can’t get a handle on. Yet, people every day devote their lives to the founder of the Christian movement, Christ Himself. And every day people die, or more accurately, are murdered in cold blood for their belief in Christ.
And then you’ve got the problems with the church. It’s no secret that the church is in need of maintenance. So much slander, gossip and false witnessing takes place behind its doors. (To those who have refrained from looking deeper into the Christian faith because of these things, remember that the church, like the earth, will not be made perfect until Christ returns. Further, Christ’s people have yet to be redeemed. When observing church members, ask yourself if love for their brothers and sisters overflows, if forgiveness is regularly extended and if repentance is genuine. If not, you may need to find a different church.)
To the outside observer, it is utterly ridiculous and mindless to subscribe to Christianity as a religion of choice. It may even seem absurd to the present convertor. Many people scoffed at Benjamin Mee for spending his life savings on a run-down, abandoned zoo. Many people will scoff at those who give their heart and soul to an ancient historical figure who seemed to to never be able to give a straight yes or no answer.
But here’s what I think is more ridiculous and absolutely insane. That a perfect, holy master and creator of the cosmos would single me out on one of the smallest planets amongst trillions of stars, on a dot of land amongst thousands of miles and depths of ocean, in the little-known city of Santa Clarita, California and say, “I want you to spend eternity with Me in Heaven.” …Me! Before I was even conceived, God knew that even after I accepted His gift of salvation, I would still grow up to be a lying, lusting, cursing, temperamental, selfish, lazy, disobedient, dead-head of a jerk. That His beloved Jesus, would die a gory death for this guy – me – who drops the f-bomb because the light won’t turn green. That His only Son would willingly become a bath of blood even while He knew my eyes would willingly wander to women who are not my wife. That the King of Heaven and earth specifically thought of me neglecting lost souls and yet continued to allow the spikes to be driven through His flesh so that I could join Him in Paradise is just absurd to me. Sending me to Hell would have been the smart thing to do. Who would honestly blame God for drenching this earth in Hell’s molten fires after all the damage we’ve done to it? But I’m still on this side of Heaven, so I have to assume that somehow it will make sense on the other side.
In retrospect, what was the bigger risk? Who paid the higher cost? It seems to me that our devotion doesn’t seem that high a cost compared to what Christ paid for those who accept His salvation. When Christ died, He received sinners. When we give our souls to Christ, we receive and inheritance that will never fade nor perish. So when someone asks why you became a Christian, or you’re contemplating it now, you can respond: