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What is Necessary to be a Christian?

by Eric S. Anderson

Christianity is not primarily a matter of what you know or what you believe, but what kind of life you live and who receives your greatest trust. In today's world, there are many alternatives from which to choose your life and trust:

There are many more. All offer some kind of satisfaction or reward to those who live them. From a Christian point of view, some are positive and some are negative, but all fall short of a truly Christian life.

Christians believe in a life of doing God's will as best we can, trusting in Jesus Christ. The problems of fully understanding God's will and the human tendency toward both sin and error are answered both in the qualifier "as best we can" and in the trust in Jesus. Even as groups of Christians argue about the specifics of God's will and the very nature of God and Creation, they agree that trust in Jesus can overcome all the sins and errors of the world.

Many have attempted a short summary or guideline to God's will, of which the best is still the ancient Biblical formulas of Deuteronomy 6:5 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might," and Leviticus 19:18, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus called these the greatest and second commandments (Mark 12:30:31).

What do Christians Do?

The primary activities of Christians are:

Worship

Christians gather to praise God, to ask for God's aid, and to renew themselves as individuals and as a community. Worship is not something individuals do alone, but only happens in a gathering. The manner and style of Christian worship has enormous variety, but there are common themes:

Prayer

Christians pray alone, too: the apostle Paul advises "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Understood this way, prayer is not simply "talking to God," but communicating with God. The difference lies in that (1) there is more to communication than talking, and (2) communicating with understands that God may, indeed will, respond.

Prayer, then, takes as many forms as human life may lead. It is the performance of those actions which deepen our relationship with God and Jesus Christ. This may, indeed, be the kinds of prayers that begin, "Dear God,..." or it may be silence, or doing some task, or reading Scripture, or writing in a journal, or helping someone, or, well, many things. In the end, it is not how we pray that matters, but that we deliberately place ourselves in the presence of God for to be renewed, corrected, and loved.

Service

All Christians live "to be [God's] servants in the service of others" (UCC Statement of Faith, 1981). As with prayer, service takes many forms. While we usually think of it happening in the institution of the Church through giving money, providing food to the homeless, and special projects like building houses or digging wells, it is also a major dimension of individual Christian life. One-on-one acts of generosity are expected among Christians, and from Christians to non-Christians.

Part of this service is the call to share Christianity with others; to make new Christians. While there is theological argument about whether one must be Christian in order to "be saved," to be a part of God's new Creation, all would agree that the ancient tradition offers this as the only certain way. At its root, the call to evangelism (to share the "good news") is simply to say, "I have been given this treasure called Christian faith. I would be happy to share it with you, if you let me."

Community

Christians do not live in isolation, either from the world or from each other. Jesus himself appears to have gathered followers quickly, and quite a few stayed with him steadily throughout his ministry. Likewise the apostles gathered new Christians together in the earliest days of the Church, going so far as to keep the members' goods in common and making a daily distribution of food to all.

So Christians have gathered ever since into congregations, and into the larger Church. As noted above, worship happens only in these gatherings, but it is not the only thing. The Church encourages individual service and prayer, and provides the emotional support of having other believers around you, in the local congregation, worldwide, and in the history of "such a great cloud of witnesses." The Church also gathers Christians for common service projects, for a vibrant declaration of the importance of the faith, and for shaping new Christians through education and fellowship. Christians are not born, they are made: and God makes them in the Church.

Biblically, the Church is called "the body of Christ," (1 Corinthians 12:27) a manifestation of God's grace on earth. It is not Jesus himself, of course (Paul calls Christ the "head of the Church" [Colossians 1:18]), but a real expression of God's work in the world. The image expresses both the absolute interdependence Christians have with each other and the crucial importance of their continued gathering for worship, prayer, and service.


http://www.computerseraph.com/AboutXtianity.html -- Revised: 25-Jun-98
Copyright © 1998 Eric S. Anderson
ESAnderson@computerseraph.com

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