Posted by: dacalu | 20 August 2009

To Be a Christian

As the new school year starts, I thought it would be a good idea to re-try this whole idea of summing up Christianity. While I’m happy with my last attempt (and you can go back and look at the beginnings of Monday’s Christian) it’s a bit, um, metaphysical. So let us start afresh.

What does it mean to be a Christian?

It means being in love with God…and with God’s world. I really think that’s it. Now, I’ll admit that figuring out love can be tremendously difficult. We often hurt those we love, so there’s nothing terribly noble about being a Christian. It’s recognizing a relationship, and being open to it. Some of us do it well and some of us do it poorly, but we’re all of us in love with God. And we do things to show that love.

What do Christians do?

1) Spend time with the one we love.

Christians take time to be with God every week, hopefully every day. We talk to God (prayer) and try to listen. Just like any other relationship, the listening can be a bit hard, but we try. We compliment God (praise) and we apologize (confession) and like any other lover, we spend lots of time talking about the beloved. We share stories about God and try to share how wonderful we think God is. We gush.

2) Pay attention to the things our beloved cares about.

Christians believe that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, our beloved so we go out of our way to take care of other humans. Some mistake this for caring for other Christians or just trying to make other Christians. It isn’t so; or it least it shouldn’t be so. We care for people because God cares for people. We also think that every time we do good for someone, we are doing good for God in them. So Christianity becomes a commitment to do good for each person as often as possible.

Doing good for people can be tough. If it doesn’t sound tough, just think about parents. Parents (almost always) try to do good for their children, but their children seldom have the same idea of good. So we see this tough balance. Do I do the good I see for my child, or the good he sees for himself. At first it’s easy. He wants to jump down a flight of stairs; I know he’ll break something; so I stop him. But as he grows older, it grows harder. I want him to be a doctor, but he wants to be a graphic designer. Eventually parents lose most of their power over children and can only help when the children ask. This means that the best parents raise their kids to make decisions for themselves and slowly hand over more and more control in choosing what’s good. Eventually, the power will be in the children’s hands.

We have very little power to force people to do things and Christians try to be very careful about the power they do have. Christians believe that God could have forced the world to do the right thing, but instead left us free will. God even became human and allowed us power over him. We didn’t do so well and yet God loved us and left us free will anyway. For this reason, Christians should be exceedingly careful about their power over others. It should never be abused because that abuse is abuse of God. God loved us and we try to love one another – even though it can be hard to figure out how.

Each church is a collection of people trying to love the world, trying to love God, their neighbors, and themselves. Some pull it off handsomely while others turn out to be horribly dysfunctional. I wish you all the best and pray you find (or make) a functional, loving community of people. It’s surprisingly easy, if you keep this in the forefront of your mind:

Christians love one another as God loved us and gave himself for us.
We do things
not for the sake of our ideals, not to be right, or even to be right with God.
We do things because we are in love
with the one who made us
and all the things that were made.

Love one another.
When in doubt, do what you would have done for you.
Try everyday
to love one more person
to love everyone you know better
and to be more open to being loved yourself.

That is Christianity.

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