The word Christianity has picked up a lot of the political baggage that currently divides our country. So I wanted to write about what Christianity means to me. This answer may not be applicable to anyone else, but perhaps it will help describe how I look at Christianity.
That is a pretty big question and my answer is fairly long, so I am splitting this into two parts.
Christianity is More Than the Behavior of Jesus’ Followers.
Jesus’ followers, like all humans, make lots of mistakes and get lost and confused. Yes, they can do great things, but they can also do great harm. History is stained with things like the crusades, support of slavery, and injustice to women and people of color, all perpetrated by, among others, those who confess to following Jesus. We must examine and confess our responsibility, and work to repair the harm done by our actions and those of our predecessors. But Christianity is more than the behavior of those who call themselves Christians.
Christianity is A Relationship.
Christianity is a relationship with God, self-described as love. It is a relationship with Jesus, the Son of God, whom the Bible calls “Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us.”
Some degree of belief in God is a prerequisite for this relationship, but Christianity is much more than belief. I believe in my wife, but that belief is certainly not the sum of our relationship. A relationship implies two-way interaction, two-way communication. Christianity is a relationship, initiated by God, desired by both parties; and honored, fed, and nurtured by both parties.
A Relationship We Are Invited Into.
God created us for, and has been inviting us into, this relationship since before we were born. God loves us unconditionally. No matter what we have done, or not done; no matter what has been done to us; we are loved. That’s a pretty powerful invitation!
God’s invitation comes in many ways. We are invited when we experience God’s mercy, forgiveness, and amazing love in our lives. We can experience God’s invitation through nature, creation, and when we serve others. God even invites us through the love of others.
As a relationship, Christianity is a movement of the heart first, and not the mind. Understanding everything, having all the answers, is not necessary for this relationship. A wise man once wrote, “I do not understand in order to believe, but believe that I may understand” (St. Anselm). The author Anne Lamott (a wise woman) wrote: “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty misses the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the confusion, the disappointment and letting it be there until some light returns.”
It’s About Love!
The Bible emphasizes that God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” Because God is a God of love, our relationship with God is a relationship of love.
But our relationship with God can be broken. Our often selfish nature, greed, and our focus on things rather than people, can all be like bricks in a wall between us and God. We add bricks to this wall when we strive for power, and with all the other ways we mess up our lives and the lives of others.
That’s when God, whose love is even greater than our brokenness, makes this love manifest in the gift of his Son Jesus Christ for the world. Jesus, through his life, death, and rising from the dead, erased all that was separating us from God. Jesus invites us back into relationship and did everything necessary to make the relationship possible.
The greatest commandments, Jesus said, are first to love God and secondly to love our neighbor. Our relationship with God is a relationship of love, enabled by Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Jesus is our example of living in loving relationship with God and our neighbor.
That’s Part 1 of What Is Christianity to Me. Part 2 will consider the impact of this relationship on our lives.