We’ve made up a lot of “requirements” to being a Christian. For example:
- Do I really have to believe in a talking snake, angels & demons, a man swallowed whole by a whale, and weird Old Testament laws?
- Do I have to stop believing in science, evolution, climate change, a universe older than 6,000 years, and stem cell research?
- Must I quit supporting gay rights and women’s rights?
- Do I have to give 10% of my money to the church, stop working on Sundays, wear bonnets, homeschool my kids, and quit using electricity?
- Do I have to believe the Bible is 100% error free or authoritative or whatever it is you guys say?
- Do I have to stop drinking, smoking, dancing, gambling, playing video games, and watching movies above a PG rating?
- Must I listen only to Christian music, wear cheesy T-shirts, and vote Republican?
There’s a lot of baggage attached to Christianity, some of it legitimate, most of it a caricature. So it’s understandable why people won’t bother at all!
That’s why I want to lay down a challenge: Forget all of that other stuff (for now). I’m not saying any of those things aren’t important. I’m just asking you to lay them aside (in spite of what your crazy Facebook friend says) because there’s only one question that ultimately matters:
Who is Jesus?
Is Jesus of Nazareth who he claimed to be? Because if he isn’t, then none of the other stuff matters. Only after we’ve examined who this man is should we consider what the implications are.
The main problem is that people view Christianity with this all-or-nothing lens, as a laundry list of things that they believe, and consequently think that every other true Christian must believe them also. That’s how the good gets muddled up with a whole lot of bad.
We shouldn’t view Christianity as a list but as a bullseye with Jesus smack in the center. So if Jesus really rose from the dead (like he said he would), then things cascade outwards and necessarily follow, such as the fact that he was God, the Trinity, and the authority of the Bible (New and Old Testaments both). But what’s important is that it all centers on Jesus. Not your views on politics, social issues, or eschatology (escha-what?).
Many of the questions and arguments about Christianity lie on the outer edges of the web. There are different views on the age of the earth, doctrine of salvation, end times, and such. But please let the main thing be the main thing and put everything else aside for the moment.
Maintain your current views on abortion, gun control, economics, politics, LGBT issues, and evolution. Keep your kids in public school. Don’t put any bumper stickers on your car. Those things can wait. I just want you to focus on Jesus. Who is he? Did he really rise from the dead? Read the Bible for yourself, but don’t start at the beginning; that will just confuse you more. Begin with the New Testament, most specifically the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Let the life of Jesus speak for itself. Once you’ve made your conclusion on who he is, then you can decide about everything else. So if you want to check out Christianity, don’t get bogged down in the details.
Start with Jesus.