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Former Shoplifter and Gamer Finds Christ

Eden Chen was a teenage shoplifter and competitive gamer. Then he found purpose beyond possessions in Christ. He shares his story in CT magazine:

Growing up, I was something of a nomad. I spent the first years of my life in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Then, at age six, I moved to Hong Kong, where I remained until the third grade before moving back to Maryland.

My parents raised my brother and me in the church. By the time we returned from Hong Kong, both of us had stopped going. I was obsessed with four things: video games, sports, material things, and chasing women. But I really excelled with the video game controller in my hand. At one point, I was one of the top 10 Warcraft 3 players in the United States.

Meanwhile, I had begun regularly shoplifting at the mall. On a weekly basis, my friends and I would compete to see who could walk out of the mall with the highest dollar value of stolen goods. Thankfully, God wouldn’t let me drift too far down this dangerous road.

At age 16, I began attending church again. I had always believed that God existed. From my perspective, it seemed likelier that nature and human creativity resulted from creation, rather than random chance. Still, for all my curiosity, I wasn’t eager to hear the answer. I knew well enough that discovering a righteous God could interrupt my preferred lifestyle of pursuing pleasure and doing as I pleased.

Then my youth pastor invited me on a mission trip to a rougher part of Nashville, Tennessee. During that trip, I met missionaries who helped reignite my search for God. They had lived in the inner-city projects and materially speaking they had next to nothing. But they were the most joyful people I had ever met. I had always assumed that more riches and possessions led to greater joy, but these missionaries were debunking that theory.

After returning home, I embarked on an all-encompassing search for God. I studied the major world religions—Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. I figured that if God was real, then he would probably make himself known. I read C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, the most logical expression of faith that I had encountered. All of a sudden, it struck me that running away from Christianity would require more faith than running toward it. I felt that the gospel o­ffered the most compelling answers to life’s most important questions: Where does all of the good in the world come from? Where does all the evil in the world come from? How do I deal with personal guilt over the way I have lived my life?

The gospel presents a fascinating solution. In the instant someone accepts that they are a sinner and that Jesus is Lord, they are made righteous not because of what they have, but because of what Jesus did on the Cross. That was the most simple and complete solution to the problem of how God can punish sin without crippling sinners—that is, all of us—with guilt and condemnation.

Editor’s Note: Today, Chen heads up a creative agency called Fishermen Labs. They make virtual- and augmented-reality experiences, and emerging technology for startups and Fortune 100 companies. They hope to emulate the 12 fishermen that Jesus called to follow him—the most influential band of misfits in the history of the world.

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