Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. — (excerpt from) 1 Corinthians 13
In my previous post (God is Love – Part 1), I discussed what Christianity is not. Having clarified what it isn’t, let’s look at what it actually is.
Quite simply put, Christianity is about love: Unconditional, never surrendering, unending love.
The core of the faith is a belief in a creating and loving God, who demonstrated to God’s creation God’s love by becoming like one of the created in the person of Christ Jesus, serving and loving humanity, understanding them, experiencing life as one of them, and being willing to die a horrible and humiliating death, all while still expressing God’s love for all God’s creation.
I understand that last paragraph is a lot to unpack, and probably raises as many questions as it answers. Questions like:
- Why was God’s creation imperfect?
- If God really loved his creation (and all people), why do so many terrible things happen in the Old Testament–particularly all those terribly violent things, and things that are completely contrary to what is in the New Testament (Jesus’ Gospel)?
- If God is really all-powerful, did God really need to “die” to “save” humanity?
- How is the story of Jesus Christ’s gruesome death a “love story?”
All of these, and others you may have, are completely legitimate questions. Frankly, they are all significant enough to merit their own article for discussion–because they are big, legitimate, and complicated questions. (Now I know what my next several posts will discuss…)
But the bottom line is: Christianity is LOVE: Love for God, Love for Others, and Love for God’s Creation. As Christians, we are called to love all of these and nothing more. No hate; no judgement; only to love. After an Old Testament (that makes up most of what Christians refer to as the bible) that is full of failed human attempts at righteousness, goodness, and purity, God realized we needed more than just “rules to follow that we can never satisfy.” That was the mission of Christ–to show that while we were imperfect people (sinners–i.e. people who do what we want, when we want, for our own selfish reasons), God still loved us without end.
As Christians, we are called to LOVE GOD and LOVE OTHERS as we love ourselves. You’ve probably heard this called the “Golden Rule,” and it is. In Christianity this is also referred to as the “Greatest Commandment.” That’s right, it’s more important than the Ten Commandments. It doesn’t negate them, but it is superior.
Christianity is about showing love to all the world in the same way Christ did: Selflessly, without judgement, without condition, without anyone deserving his help or love, without being loved in return, and even when that love is returned with hate, or maybe even worse–with indifference.
The New Testament is full of stories that reflect this. Jesus heals ten lepers, yet only one even bothers to thank him. Jesus heals countless others–none of whom have done anything to “deserve” his help. But he helps them nonetheless.
Even while dying on his cross, Jesus prays for forgiveness for those who are murdering him. Jesus does not pray damnation on those who have beat him, humiliated him, and who are ultimately killing them. In LOVE he prays for their salvation.
It is this love that Christians are called to–and when we fail to demonstrate it, we fail to send Christ’s message to the world.
Who among us (myself included) would be willing to continue using our own strength to make the lives of others better when there is no thanks? Who of us would be willing to immediately forgive (let along pray for) someone who beat us, or abused us, let alone was going to kill us?
This is exactly the love that Jesus demonstrates.
So when you want to know what Christianity is, know that it is believing is God’s unrelenting love for creation–and in a Christians’ recognition of that love, we want to share that love with all who will listen, all who will hear, and all who seek to fill the void in their lives that only an amazing love can fill.
And when you see a professed Christian doing anything otherwise, know that their actions are not “Christian.” But also know, that every single Christian you meet is every bit as undeserving, as imperfect, and as sinful as any other person who has ever lived. Christians are NOT perfect and they are NOT better than anyone else.
We are only called to love as Jesus loves. And we still screw that up. But when we do, we try again.
And that’s Christianity in a nutshell.