Why are you a Christian? If you haven’t given this answer much thought, you should. At an indefinite time in the future, someone is going to ask you why you are a Christian. The answer you give could very well impact how that person perceives Christianity. Think carefully before answering.
Recently, a popular website ran a video called “I’m a Christian, but I’m not…” where the viewers listed all the things they wanted people to know Christianity wasn’t, but not once did they mention what it was. I thought about this when I read the propers for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost. The prayers for today are all focused on why we are a Christian, and how we remain a Christian which is just as important.
The Introit begins by talking about the responsibilities of God, who is just in His judgments and in who He shows mercy to. When we talk about why we are Christians that is where we should start. We are not Christians because we believe this or that. We aren’t Christians even necessarily because Jesus died for us. Jesus died for everyone, and not everyone is a Christian.
The Epistle gives us a hint of why we are Christians. St. Paul wishes that we walk worthy of the “vocation in which you are called.” First and foremost, we are Christians because God calls us. God calls the entire world to fellowship with him, a fellowship made possible by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Not everyone will answer that call. Indeed, a minority will be the only ones who answer that call, for as Christ says “many are called, few are chosen.” We are Christians because we are responding to the call God has for our lives. That response may have been in our baptism as an infant, a coming to Christ throughout the years, etc. If we respond to God, that call will actually be a daily occurrence. Being a Christian should never be stale, because everything that happens in our lives is a chance to make our commitment anew.
Since God is a loving Father, he gives us all the tools we need to carry out this vocation faithfully. These tools are listed in the epistle. One body (the Church), one Spirit (The Holy Spirit), one faith (the Catholic Faith), one Lord (Jesus who save us), and one Baptism, a baptism which makes living in God possible. Why is St. Paul obsessed with pointing out there is just one of all of these things?
Living in the world is difficult, even as a non-believer. We are given thousands of different ideas and thousands of paths to success. None of them work. The most you can hope for is one that isn’t a catastrophic failure. Living as a follower of God is even more difficult in the world. We have all of these other ideas from before, and now you have all of these other ideas promoted by people claiming to follow God. Given such possibilities, it becomes very tough for people to listen to God’s calling.
If we notice another thing, all of these are gifts from the one God at the end. None of them come from ourselves. This is not because we are worthless, but because God wants us to know there is a sure way to find him, a sure way to grow in holiness, and a sure way to get to heaven. In a world of uncertainty, God wants to offer certainty, if we are willing to take it.
While One Lord, baptism, and Spirit are pretty self-explanatory, why are one body and one faith so important, and why are they gifts from God? The collect asks God that He give us the strength to avoid the wiles of the devil, and follow God instead. This is where we see the importance of doctrine. If we follow the Catholic faith, we won’t fall prey to erroneous thinking in the world. While some would say that certainly this applies to teachings like the Eucharist, is the Church’s teaching on women’s ordination or contraception similarly important? While many may be loathe to proclaim it, the answer is yes. Rejecting issues like women’s ordination helps to reject a lot of the gender theories Pope Francis has condemned as “ideological colonization” being unleashed by market forces on the world. These theories give a falsehood about the roles of men and women, and in many instances have proven disastrous for society. With things like contraception, Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae predicted most of today’s “throwaway culture” with startling accuracy, because he saw in contraception a selfishness that, when left unchecked, would produce disastrous events. Upholding the Church’s teaching on contraception is a bulwark against that disaster.
The same could be said about the importance of one Church. All throughout the world Christian bodies are rapidly abandoning teachings the world views controversial, and far from them attracting the world, they are alienating it at an even quicker pace. Those bodies are dying off, and are experiencing (or soon will experience) an existential crisis that calls into question their very existence. Because the Church has not followed their way, she has not only continued to exist but even manages to thrive in certain areas. All is not well obviously. While the Church has the truth, a large minority of her followers do not follow it. Yet in spite of that all, better to have the truth and the path to follow and still have a chance.
Based on all of this, when someone asks why you are a Christian, don’t tell them what you aren’t. Tell them you are a Christian because you responded to God’s call, and He gave us all of these gifts to make sure we continue to follow His call. Most importantly, we follow His call because it results in our fulfillment and our salvation.