Why Are You a Christian Today?
By Steve Stillman
There has never been a time in the history of the Christian faith in which our faith has been more rudely challenged and tested as it is today. It seems that Christianity has to be on guard against enemies from without and enemies from within it's own household. Christian principles are fighting for their life, struggling to sustain integrity and fighting to avoid being overcome by systems that deny the name of God. In today's struggle as Christians we find the words of the apostle Peter very relevant: "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear". It is very relevant to always be ready to make a defense to anyone who calls us to account for the faith that is in us. Some of the typical questions that we may be called to defend could be: 1. Why do you hold on to a hope you cannot see?, or why are you Christ's men and women?, or Why are you Christian anyway? We may encounter these questions concerning our faith and beliefs in the most subtle ways. The answers we give will determine the quality of the Christian witness we have.
What do critics of Christianity say?
Some say Christianity is like a drug; it stupefies the poor and oppressed by promising them a brighter future. Others say Christianity is like a poisonous infection; it gets into a person's blood stream and makes one too humble and tolerant, and hence it's followers are less able to be masters than slaves. Other critics feel that Christianity is all right as a Sunday hobby or a cultural luxury for those who are interested in that kind of thing, but it should never be permitted to lay any claim upon us the rest of the week. Such perspectives show that these critics are not quite sure or clear about what Christianity really is. For them it appears to be a refuge for the socially dispossessed, or it provides a sentimental fellowship for those who like softness, or it is the means whereby our conforming culture is perpetuated and sustained. These critics will continue thinking this way until they have to look at Christianity squarely in the face in order to see it for what it is. If they would actually face Christianity squarely they would see it involves a total response, and it means going all out for some end worthy of their effort, even though it involves dying to self in order to realize it.
If tomorrow you were asked by a critic to defend the reason or integrity of your Christian belief, what answer would you be inclined to give? The following are responses we all should be ready to give.
1. Our first response could be, "I am a Christian for my own sake". Joseph Parker wrote, "Jesus never comes to make us less; he comes to make us more." For our own sakes then we should be Christian to be made more. The New Testament scriptures are full of excited men and women who had a peculiar radiance on their faces, whose hearts seemed thrilled by their good fortune, and whose minds were so dazed they could not find the words to explain what had happened to them when they met Jesus. Their whole life was made different, new, and glorious. The secret of it all was that someone had taken over their lives and had given them a new spiritual understanding. These were the people that had been crushed and had given up trying, but when Jesus came among them he treated them as persons who had souls and he gave them of his best. After receiving what Jesus gave them not one of them would ever dream of going back to the dull, shabby life from which they came.
2. Our second response could be, "I am a Christian for the world's sake". None of us can deny that throughout the world today there is a great sense of being lost. In trying to account for this feeling of being lost some people claim it comes from a loss of faith in the leadership of those who are entrusted with responsibility in many areas of our lives. Some people cite other reasons, but the true reason is people feel lost due to a lost relationship. There is nothing we all need today more than this. On every hand we meet men and women who need desperately a new sense of life's meaning, direction, and purpose. We must show them that it is only through a personal relationship to a Being who is greater than ourselves, that their lives can discover this meaning and purpose. As Christians are we people of a high purpose? Are we Christians for the world's sake? As Christians it is for us to declare that we believe this world belongs to God and that we are headed for disaster if we leave him out. It is for us to teach that there is only one destiny for the world of men and women and that is to be found in obedience to the will of God. As Christians it is for us to witness that it is only in Jesus Christ that we find out what that will is and only through him do we get the power to do it.
3. Our third response could be: "I am a Christian for Jesus' sake". The words of Jesus are relevant to this response; "He who saves his life shall lose it, but whosoever loses his life for my sake and the gospels the same shall save it". These words of Jesus take issue with every modern misinformed school of thought that sees religion as a means to an end; that considers Christianity merely a door opening upon worldly success; that thinks of Christian worship as a therapeutic exercise that makes everyone feel better. This kind of Christianity is unreal and cannot stand where all kinds of pagan ideologies are hurled against it. Real Christianity began with the Son of God laying down his life for our sakes, and with his call to everyone to a personal commitment for his sake. When we can say to the critics, "I am a Christian for Jesus' sake", it means we have confessed Jesus as the only one who can give meaning and purpose to our lives, and to human history. It also means that Jesus gave himself for us, so must we work and serve and pray in his name until all nations have the opportunity to claim him as their own.
Stephen Stillman, husband, father of 2, grandfather of 4, and Hospice Chaplain.