Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What does it mean to be a Christian?

First, being a Christian means believing that God exists.

By God, we don't mean a start-up mechanism for the universe that no longer has any relationship to the universe or to us.

By God we don't mean nature, or any forces arising from nature.

By God, we don't mean an impersonal force, not even an impersonal force for good.

By God, Christians mean the creator of all that is: every far-off galaxy, every atomic particle, and all of life. In particular, Christians believe that God created men and women, and that he created them in his own image, that is, he created them to be like himself in some fundamental way.

Scientific accounts of creation don't contradict the Christian belief in God as the Creator. True religion and true science can't contradict one another. Science and religion both search for truth; they just do it in different domains.

Religion speaks to why the universe was created, its purpose. Christians believe that God created the universe out of his love, that he created people to be in a loving relationship with him.

Science speaks to the mechanisms by which physical things occur. It describes and explains relationships between things in creation, how one affects the other. Science can't tell me the purpose of my life, nor you of yours. Indeed, science would say there is no purpose to human life, except to propagate itself, which really is no purpose at all.

True science shows us our physical relationship to the rest of creation. True religion shows us our moral relationship to the rest of creation, and it shows us our relationship to the Creator.

We know God as the Creator because God revealed himself as such to mankind. Without his revelation of himself, we believe that God would remain unknown.

It was to the Jews that God revealed himself to be the Almighty, the Creator of all that is. It was to the Jews that God began to reveal his love and commitment to us. It was to the Jews that God revealed his desire to be acknowledged as our God. God wants us all to know that he is our God. He just started with the Jews.

God didn't create us to be just intelligent animals. He gave us the ability to love as well. He created us to be simultaneously loving and truthful (which is harder to do than you might imagine).

God created us to live in relationship with him, to spend time with him, and communicate with him. God created us to be good, as God himself is good. We're a long way from this ideal, but we can move in that direction.

Christians believe that God is completely good, perfectly loving, and entirely truthful, that he is both merciful and just. We believe that he knows everything -- including everything about each one of us -- and that he loves each one of us completely and constantly.

That's hard for us to grasp, that God could both know everything about us and love us completely. If he is perfect, why would he love someone imperfect like me?

Love can't be earned, ever.

Love can only be given without regard to how deserving the receiver is. That's what real love is. If it has conditions, it isn't real love.

We're not good at this, so we don't understand it very well. It's hard for us to imagine someone loving everyone without regard to what they've been or done. But think about someone you know who is a very loving person. Don't they love a lot of people? They just seem to love everyone. That's closer to what real love looks like. It's closer to what God's love looks like.

If God knows and loves each one of us, why don't we all experience his love and presence? Christians believe that we can't come to live in God's love by ourselves. If you've tried, you know this to be true. It just doesn't work. We can do things that make us feel good for a little while. But it all soon fades, and we're left feeling empty again.

If we are to experience God's presence and love, he has to reach down to us and bring us to him. It is in that reaching down to us that Christianity was born.

Christians believe that Jesus, a Jew who lived about 2000 years ago, was God reaching down to mankind, reaching down with himself in a human form that we could see, hear, and touch. Reaching down to show us who he is, to show us the depth of his love, and to offer us forgiveness for going our own way and ignoring the one Good, the one source of Love, the Creator of us all.

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