What is a Christian? What is Christianity? Is Christianity only about Jesus?
Being a Christian is not in the first place a code of behaviour, for example ‘Do as you would be done by’ or being a Good Citizen. Nor is it really a matter of believing certain facts or doctrines. If we are Christians, we will have to believe certain facts to be true and we will have to behave in certain ways, but before Christianity is a system of thought or code of behaviour, it is a response to a person, that particular person being Jesus of Nazareth.
If we look at the first Christians, we see that they were men chosen, claimed and challenged by Jesus to become his friends, his loyal disciples and sharers of his life. If we respond to Jesus in our lives, it is because we believe that he has made that same claim on us.
A Christian is one who experiences Jesus’ claim on his life now. The Christian believes that Jesus is a living person, that he has overcome death and shares God’s life and that it is possible to have a living relationship of faith and trust with him now.
It is this conviction about Jesus that makes Christian faith different from any other code of behaviour or philosophy of life. Jesus is our clue to the nature of God and of man and the meaning and purpose of human life, relationships, and death.
Do you believe? Are you part of God's Family? Do you worship regularly?
It is a nonsense to say that it doesn’t matter what we believe. Our beliefs about human life will affect very deeply the way we act. For example, if we believe that human life is merely short, brutal and meaningless; we will treat our fellow men accordingly. Or if we believe, like Hitler, that Jews are racially inferior, we will act accordingly, perhaps with disastrous and terrible results.
If, on the other hand, we believe that Jesus shows us what God is really like and what human life is all about, if we believe that his death and resurrection show us the true destiny of human beings, then our response to life will be much richer, open and selfless.
It is not possible to be a full human being without other people. From the first moments of our existence we learn about being human from other people. In the same way, it is not possible to be a Christian without our brothers and sisters in God’s Family, the Church. This means several things. First, Christianity is caught, not taught; we learn about being a Christian from other Christians. Secondly, it means that we need the support, love and encouragement of our fellow Christians to persevere in the practice of our Faith. Thirdly, and very important, we need the whole tradition of Christian believing to help us understand about Jesus and his Scriptures. We simply cannot make up our Faith for ourselves; it is the Church as a whole which is the Body of Christ and which knows the mind of Christ, and we depend upon that for our own understanding of God’s revelation. It is to that whole ‘catholic’ tradition that the Church of England bears witness. Fourthly, we need to be part of the Family for our worship; Baptism makes us members of the Family, the Eucharist (the most important act of Christian worship) is a family meal and an action in which we need to be joined to our fellow Christians. In the Bible, God’s promises are first and foremost for his people as a whole and only for us as individuals in so far as we take our full part in the life of his people.
It is not possible, as we have seen, to be a Christian and not join in worship with our fellow Christians, and that means going to church in a frequent, regular and disciplined fashion as a priority in our lives and a matter of personal loyalty to Jesus Christ. If we cannot be bothered to make such a minimum effort, then we cannot seriously talk about loving God or following Jesus. On the night of his betrayal, Jesus commanded his disciples to celebrate the Eucharist as the means of sharing his life. Loyalty to him must take that command seriously.