This is Part 2 of “What Is Christianity to Me?” The prior entry described Christianity as a relationship with God, founded upon God’s unconditional love and made possible by Jesus.
A Relationship That Changes Me.
Christianity is a relationship of love with God that forms much of what I understand.
My Understanding of Who God Is – This relationship forms my understanding of God. God is a God who rejoices over us in gladness, renews us in his love, and loves us unconditionally. God is not a God of fear. God is not a God who is displeased and waiting for us to screw up so God can punish us.
My Understanding of Who We Are – As part of God’s creation, we are good and God is pleased with us. But we are also broken and have an inherent tendency to always be selfish and turn inward, thinking only of ourselves. God’s grace means that God knows me—and loves me. God knows me inside out. God knows all my dark secrets, the dust and dirt in the dark corners of my life. God knows it all. And even so, in spite of all my problems, God loves me. And the same is true for you! God knows you, every part of you—and loves you! And this amazing love sets you, and me, free. We are set free because we no longer have to spend our energy trying to earn God’s love. WE ALREADY HAVE IT! Therefore, our energy can be turned to responding to this love, to living out this love for God and others.
My Purpose in Life – Following the lead of Jesus Christ, my purpose is to love and serve others, to share God’s love in all kinds of ways. As we follow Jesus’ lead, we turn our eyes outward, rather than inward. Somehow, in a way that is hard to explain, the whole world becomes our family. Many years ago, on one Christmas Eve, we were just about to start the worship service. I was standing at the back of the church soaking up the beauty and wonder present. A beautiful prelude had been sung, the atmosphere was vibrant with the Christmas spirit. At that moment, the door opened and in came a homeless person that regularly attended church and was often a challenge. The assisting minister whispered what I believe were God’s words into my ear, “We can start now, the whole family is here.” Tears streamed down my face. As a follower of Jesus, in some strange way, the whole world becomes our family. And it is our purpose to love that family, just as Jesus loves us.
My View of Creation – God loves creation and all that is part of creation. The Bible tells us the planet will not end in a ball of fire with God’s condemnation, but in a new creation, a redeemed heaven and earth. Therefore, our purpose is to care for creation and all creatures.
My View of the Bible – The Bible is an inspired book about God. It is a book about me, about us. It is about the relationship with God into which we are invited. It speaks of people’s efforts and constant failures to follow God, to live in relationship with God. It tells of God’s utmost love and never-ending efforts to draw us back into relationship. It is about a love so great that God gave up his only Son, Jesus, to restore our relationship with God. There are lots of difficult bits in the Bible, but overall it is about love, revealing God to me, and even revealing me to me.
Some Things This Relationship Leaves Unchanged.
Unfortunately, this relationship with God does not make me perfect. Even though I try to live in a way that reflects God’s love to others, I often mess this up and God continually calls me to go deeper in my living out of God’s love for the world.
A relationship with God does not remove suffering from life. There is still sickness, broken relationships, and disappointments. Death and pain are still present as well as just plain mean and violent people. So while we still suffer, our relationship with God means that we never suffer alone. God meets us in our moments of greatest need, our greatest struggles, when we have come to the end of our resources and strength. God travels with us through the suffering, not around it, but through it. My relationship with God does not solve all of life’s problems. It does not make life easy, me healthy or wealthy or wise. But it does mean that I never face life’s problems alone. God gives me strength to persevere through whatever life brings.
Finally, a disclaimer. This is the personal reflection of one man, one seeker after God, one broken and humble follower of Jesus. I do not speak for the Lutheran Church or any other institution or group. And I confess (and celebrate) that, as in all relationships, I am still learning and growing in my relationship with God. But I hope and pray that this might help each of you, my readers, think about this question for yourself.
I close with my favorite blessing from the Bible.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance to you and give you peace, now and forever.