“But why are you a Christian?”
It is a question shy evangelicals desperately wish somebody would ask. “Be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you,” but hope you don’t have to bring it up yourself.
“Why are you called a Christian?”
Take the question slightly differently and it sounds a bit like an accusation. Like “How could someone like you possible claim to be one?”
It is a question with several possible meanings, each one leading to different answers.
“But why are you called a Christian?”
They assume we hear two questions here. At least they give us answers to two very different versions of the question.
The first answer points to the issue I’ve been posting about the last couple weeks: Faith and what it does in our lives. I’m called a Christian
“Because by faith I am a member of Christ…”
This is the answer to the question “Where does your identity as a Christian come from?”
Faith, trust in God’s love found in Jesus creates a deep and permanent bond. As I wrote last week it is like when a branch is grafted into a vine, becoming part of a new plant. Here the idea of being a “member” is from Paul, who uses the term for us as limbs or organs in the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 6:15).
So of course I’m called a Christian. Faith connects me to Christ. It isn’t about my behavior meeting anyone’s standard.
The second question is, for my money, more interesting. Instead of reading “Why?” as “Because of what?” try reading it as “For what purpose?” or “To what end” or even “With what result?”
So, then, why, for what purpose am I a Christian? What is it for?
Well, “Christ” means “anointed one” so if I’m a Christian I share his anointing. And that anointing gives four new purposes to my life:
- I am a Christian “to confess his name” — to tell the truth about Jesus.
- I am a Christian “to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks” — so the whole orientation of my living will be to please and thank Jesus.
- I am a Christian “to strive with a free conscience against sin and the devil in this life,” — to live a life that reflects the goodness and freedom of Jesus.
- I am a Christian “afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for eternity.” — to eventually, mysteriously, share life with Christ in a new kind of world.
Heidelberg doesn’t give me apologetical arguments for why I am a Christian. Heidelberg gives me inner clarity about where my faith comes from and what it is for.
How would you answer the question “What is the goal or purpose of being a Christian?”
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