Vandalia United Methodist Church

From the Pastor's Study

What Is Christianity?

What is Christianity: A belief? A teaching? A faith? A religion? A following? A way to salvation? How you answer that question probably says a lot about how you practice your faith.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:3-6 NRSV)

I was surprised to find Gary Chamberlain’s name as the author of a devotion in an edition of Disciplines, a daily devotional guide. Gary was professor of Old Testament Studies at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. Gary had just arrived at the seminary when I began my studies in January 1985. He left the seminary and returned to parish ministry before I graduated in December 1988. In the years I was associated with him, Gary was searching to find his calling in ministry. In reading his article I discerned a sense of peace which gave me hope that he finally found solace within himself and with God.

As I read Gary’s devotion, something clicked. I had been struggling for quite a while about why God allows bad things to happen to good people. I had a hard time understanding why cancer afflicts the good, the young, and/or the innocent.

“What is it that Christians know that is unknown to those who are unfaithful and perishing?” Gary asked. Despite the claims of the passage from 2 Corinthians 4, many people (including many Christians) would not agree that there is anything special about the Christian faith. It seems arrogant and old-fashioned to even think of “unfaithful” and “perishing” as the same thing. Don’t we all know unchurched people, people of other religions, perhaps even people with no religion who are upright, generous, and wise, who best exemplify Christian ideals? Someone such as Mahatma Gandhi comes to mind. On the other hand, do we not hear of people who claim to be Christian, and yet, their conduct, insight, and emotional stability are far below our expectations?

Paul in his letters to the Corinthians is trying to undo some false ideas of Christian wisdom and superiority, by which he himself is judged inadequate by his own church. But Paul is not even trying to answer the questions as we have posed them. There is no “what” that only Christians know. There is only Jesus Christ, “the likeness of God,” a person not an idea.

Faith is neither a concept nor a rule of conduct; but a relationship, within which Paul found that his whole previous life seemed like death. Jesus Christ is a person who walks with us in our journey through life: experiencing the bad, sharing the good. Faith is a relationship. We know that we are ultimately in God’s hands. He is there as a partner, a leaning lost, a listening ear, a source of refreshment and strength.

“What is Christianity?” is best answered by saying that it is a relationship with the true and living God through the person of Jesus Christ by whom we are forgiven of our sins and escape the righteous judgment of God.

With that in mind, how is your relationship with Jesus?

Easter blessings,
Terry



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10:40 AM Sunday School





First United Methodist Church of Vandalia :: 618.283.3684