I love exploring history and the cause and effect relationship of certain actions. If you want to know why something happened, you have to consider what preceded it. Neither you, nor I, or our society live in a vacuum, so there are these constant push/pull, give/take, cause/effect scenarios playing out across our lives, culture, and history through time.
If you want to understand why I behave and think and act a certain way, look to my parents, my family, and my upbringing, among a host of other influences which have shaped me along the way. I loved horses as a child because my grandfather had a barnyard full of Shetland ponies.
I’m terrified of ever snorkeling again because, to put it simply, my one and only experience just did not end well. I’m not a fan of banana-flavored foods or drinks because I once had to take an antibiotic as a child that tasted similar to bananas. It tasted so horrible I threw it up all over my dad.
I go to the gym now because I knew I needed to get my body in shape, and I vowed I was never going to go through the agony of having a herniated disc again.
I currently have short hair, and I have told myself for a long time now I would never want to grow it out again because I associate long hair with who I used to be in high school—and I did not like who I used to be. The list is a never-ending cause and effect relationships, and that’s just in my own life. The list is infinitely longer if we look at history at large.
The same is true when we consider the story lines playing out on the pages of the Bible. Why did Mary and Joseph have to go to Bethlehem? Because Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census to be taken and each person had to return to his hometown.
Why did Eve eat the apple in the garden? Because Satan deceived her. Why did Moses have to flee Egypt? Because he killed an Egyptian man and Moses feared for his life. I realize these are overly simplified and generalized statements of what are complex cause and effect relationships, but you get the idea. It is the classic question of “why?” with the ever-informative answer “because.”
But do you want to know one of the ultimate cause and effect relationships that underlines the entirety of Scripture?
It is bound up in the simple sequence of just a few short phrases and a series of pronouns: That I may → that you may → that we may → that they may.
Jesus sets this grand chain reaction of dominoes into motion when he says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again” (Jn. 10:17).
Why does he lay down his life? So that he may take it up again. He cannot be resurrected if he does not first die. He is the “I” in the sequence. That I may. He is the first domino to fall, which leads to the second domino.
Jesus lays down his life to take it up again. Why?
So that you may.
So that you may what?
The answer lies in John 20:31, “But [this book was] written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The context of this verse applies directly to the book of John, a book which recorded the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Cause? Jesus laid down his life? Effect? You get to choose to believe and have life in his name. If you flip toward the back of your Bible to 1 John 5:13, you’ll see a similar echo, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” Jesus died and was resurrected, and these stories are recorded of him doing so you could believe in him and spend eternity in heaven.
That I may, so that you may.
Two dominoes fall. But they do not stop just yet. The story never ends with just you.
It continues with “we.”
That we may.
Paul shares in 2 Corinthians 10 a defense of his ministry. He speaks of how we can and cannot boast in who we are, how we can and cannot compare ourselves, and what the limits to our boasting are. He ultimately wraps up in verse 18 by saying, “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” It is a couple of verses just prior in vv. 15-16, however, that we must note, “But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you…”
That we may preach the gospel.
We want our area of influence to increase and be greatly enlarged so that we may tell others about this Jesus who laid down his life for us. Another domino falls.
The whole of Scripture paints this singular cause and effect sequence: Jesus laid down his life so that he may take it up again so that you may have eternal life and so that we may preach the gospel to all nations.
But is that the last of the dominoes to fall?
That they may.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
“That I may” crashes into “that you may” which knocks over “that we may” which collides with “that they may.”
The end goal is always others. Jesus died and was resurrected not simply so you could get yourself a get-out-of-hell-free card. Yes, he died for you personally and individually. But he did not die only for you. God told Abram in Genesis 12:2-3,
“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
The blessing might have begun with Abram, but it most certainly did not end with him.
The greatest cause and effect in my life and your life begins with Jesus and ends with others, and we get sandwiched in between.
Jesus is the single most magnificent cause in the history of mankind.
That storyline has been unfolding for thousands of years and is still unfolding.
May we be a part of that effect and the preaching of gospel in lands beyond us.
So that they may share in the gift of eternal salvation.
The beauty of the story is that the first and the last dominoes—I and they—come full circle and crash into one another in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
That I may.
So that you may.
So that we may.
So that they may.
Courtney Yantes works for a state agency in Ohio, which focuses on creating quality lives for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and their families. She graduated from William Woods University with a bachelor’s degree in history and a master in business administration. She is a lover of all things Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and Sheldon Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy, and relishes a life free of social media accounts.