Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why are you a Christian?

Photo courtesy of svilen001
As I was recently reflecting on some people I know, some people I've heard of and some people I've seen teach a question came to my mind. Depending on the inflection that you use when asking the question it could come across in at least two ways and depending on how this post flows we may look at both. Now, without any further ado, the question:

Why are you a Christian?

The original impetus behind this question, in my mind, was seeing people who claim the name of Christ yet disregard, ignore, or discount most of the traditional teachings of the faith. For instance, say a person calls his or her self a Christian yet does not believe in the Resurrection. Why call yourself a Christian? This is THE central teaching of the New Testament and according to Paul it is by this fact that the rest of Christianity holds together.

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins (1 Cor. 15:16-17).

Furthermore, the message of the early Church, particularly the disciples, was firmly rooted in the belief that Jesus Christ actually rose from the dead. This leaves me to wonder not only why people who do not believe in the Resurrection would call themselves Christians but how they could do it.

Now, before I get side-tracked into a discussion about the Resurrection let me refocus on the main objective; the question of why you are a Christian. As far as my feeble mind can tell there is another layer to this question that we must uncover to get at the answer and I think it has to do with what it means to be a Christian. You see, being a Christian (or believer, or Christ-follower, or whatever else you want to call yourself) is not a byproduct of where you were born, who you were born to, or what philosophy you ascribe to. I can call myself a Brazilian until I'm blue in the face but that doesn't change the fact that it would just be something nice to call myself. Why do I say that? Simply because I am not from Brazil, I don't look like a Brazilian, talk like a Brazilian or have anything else in common with Brazilians other than being human. I could walk out the door and call myself a Hindu but any real Hindu would laugh because I don't believe the things that their religion holds to. There would have to be some kind of benefit to my claiming to be a Brazilian Hindu in order for me to want to do that.

This takes us right back to the primary question. There must be some kind of benefit to calling yourself a Christian even though you don't subscribe to traditional, orthodox, Christian beliefs. I can see that in America there might be a chance that there would be some political or economic benefits to claiming Christ. However, there are ministers in the Christian Church that do not believe in foundational doctrines such as the Resurrection, Creation, the Virgin Birth or the inspiration of the Bible. My reason is useless to provide an answer as to why they would want to be a Christian, much less a minister thereof. I'm not going to go out and join PETA. Why? Because I don't believe in the same things that they do. If I did join that organization I would certainly think twice about going to the annual gala with a rack of ribs or a T-bone steak.

This is exactly what I see happening. If, in our little metaphor, PETA represents the Church then we have key leaders coming to the banquet wearing fur coats, zebra boots, carrying crocodile handbags and ordering the 8 oz. Filet Mignon. Clearly there is a problem here and some red flags should be flying. Let me pause for just a moment and say this. I don't find myself angry or mad about this situation as much as I am confused. I just don't get it.

Here is what I see happening. There are those who look at the Christian faith and see traditions that are appealing, philosophy that is stimulating and a portion of a message that will make things better for people without offending them. There is no doubt that a large part of the Christian message is that we are all equal and that we should take care of the poor, marginalized and downtrodden. I not only admit that but I also preach it! However, the message of Christ is far more than an economic system that insures there is enough for everyone and a salve for the soul in a chaotic world. If you want that then you can look almost anywhere, including secularism. What you can't find anywhere else is the message that there is one God that became a man, lived among us to teach us, died for our transgressions, was raised from the dead and wants to give us a new life in and through Him.

Here is what I see being a Christian means. It means, not transforming the world to be a better place, but being transformed by Christ Jesus. Know this, we are not being transformed by a philosophy or a theology, we are being transformed by a person, by God. Now, I think we are getting at the root of the problem. To some Christianity is another system among many and one that is palatable to them. This is simply wrong. Christianity is a person and because of that person and what He did for us we can be in a relationship with God Almighty. This relationship is not about what He can do for us, and it certainly isn't about what we can do for Him. The relationship is in place so we can know God and glorify Him and make His name great in all the earth.

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:8,10).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever (Psalm 86:12).

If you don't believe you were ever in darkness to begin with. If you don't want to know God and share in His resurrection because you don't believe Christ was ever raised. If you don't believe that this God wants to transform you so that you can know Him. Why are you a Christian? Is it because the traditions are appealing? Is it because the theology gives you a good mental workout? Is it because you see Christianity as offering a good option for healing the wrongs of the world? Why?

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