Who is a Christian ?

An interesting conversation took place with my students few years ago. I asked my students their views about same-sex marriage, which at that time the US Supreme Court had just made legal. Some of my students supported same-sex marriage, and so I asked how many of them know what Jesus taught about marriage.

We can read what Jesus had to say about marriage in the gospel of Matthew (ch 19). When God created us, He created us man and woman for the very purpose of marriage. Through marriage, God wants us to know the mystery of the relationship between God and His bride, the Church. Marriage is thus a sacred covenant that must never be broken. While my students learned the relevant verses on the Christian understanding of marriage, my next question was,

“So, who do you think can rightly define marriage – Jesus Christ or US Supreme Court ?”

Some answered Jesus. Others, still hesitant, said Jesus can have his opinion but we must respect everyone’s opinion.

I stepped back and asked, “Do you believe Jesus is God ? And if so, if God says X and man says Y, who do you think we can trust ?”

These two questions relate to two important aspects about our faith.

First is the identity of the very person of Jesus Christ. To put it plainly, who do you believe is Jesus. And second, there are consequences in our life if we choose to believe Jesus Christ is God.

Let’s take the first aspect – who is Jesus according to our faith.

Can we call someone a Christian simply  because he agrees with the philosophy of Jesus Christ ? The answer is a clear no ! The distinctive mark of Christian faith is that a Christian believes that this Jewish carpenter by name Jesus, who lived in Palestine during the height of Roman empire, is the Sovereign God of this Universe. This is an extra ordinary claim that we Christians make. St. Paul knew that the gospel he was preaching was at once scandalous to Jews and foolishness to gentiles (1 Cor 1/23) .Yet, it is that faith we Christians proclaim each Sunday during the Holy Mass. At each Mass we loudly proclaim the very words of our faith,

“I believe in Jesus Christ …. who is God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God”

This is also the proclamation in the Gospels and what the Apostles taught. St. John writes that the Son of God is God himself (John 1/18). In the gospel as well as in the letter to Hebrews, we read that everything created was created through Christ (John 1/3 and Hebrews 1/2) and that all created things are sustained by the power of Christ (Hebrews 1/3).

St. Thomas, our father in faith, and who called upon Jesus “My Lord [Yahweh] and my God”, planted this faith in our soil too.

… and these lead us to the second part of my question to my students. If we believe in this faith of our fathers, won’t that also have other consequences in our life ?

Yes ! Being a Christian would also mean that we must change our lives by the very words of Jesus Christ because the words spoken by Jesus are the Words of our Creator God ! Even the “difficult sayings” of Christ, such as His teaching on marriage, His claim as the only Redeemer, and most importantly what He taught about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, a Christian has to simply believe because it was God was spoke and taught. A Christian has no right to pick and choose what is good for them. If we reject one Word, we are rejecting our Lord Himself.

As mere men, we are not perfect and will definitely fall short in following all the teachings of Christ. We then have to acknowledge our own weaknesses rather than blame God or ignore Christ’s teaching.

Let’s also remember that our Lord is a compassionate God. God became human at the time appointed by God, “for us men and for our salvation”.  As the Catechism of Catholic Church teaches, “Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith” (Paragraph 463).

Further Reading:

Catechism of the Catholic Church – Jesus Christ, the only Son of God

John 1 (Malayalam Bible)

Hebrews 1 (Malayalam Bible)

Matthew 19 (Malayalam Bible)

 

 

 

 

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