|Who are We?
Copyright 2003 William G. Meisheid ›
There are many competing definitions of Christianity in the modern marketplace of ideas, both inside the Church and in the secular world around us. Leaving aside the skewed secular definitions, how do we as Christians view ourselves?
For some Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus and they think of their spiritual life entirely in relational terms. For others, it is the New Covenant, an agreement between God and mankind that replaces the former Mosaic Covenant and sets guidelines for how we are to live our lives and relate to God. For still others, it is a system of beliefs that define who God is, who we are, and how we interact spiritually with God and morally with our fellow man. A few people are eclectic and combine elements from all three positions into an integrated mosaic, making up a relational covenant driven by a system of beliefs. No matter which approach is taken, one true thing undergirds everything that makes us Christian. What we believe makes us who and what we are.
When everything is stripped away, truth, not sincerity, is the final arbiter of what we should believe. Let me explain. If you woke up one day and realized you had been living a lie, would your sincerity mean anything? Not really. Your belief deceived you into living a false life. How you felt about it would, in the end, not matter. So, truth becomes the foundation of living a successful life, since for what we do to have lasting meaning or value we have to believe what is true.
For a Christian, this begins with Jesus Christ, who told his disciples "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." We come to Jesus in the position of Pilate. Jesus said to him, Ēfor this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." Pilate's response was, "What is truth?" That is also our question. We study to show ourselves approved so we can apprehend the truth, separate out error, and bring doctrine and life into conformity with what Jesus has said is real.
As we who are members of the Episcopal Church enter the coming months and deal with the many issues facing us, both as congregations and as individual Christians, one primary question and concern should undergird all of our thoughts, deliberations, and actions: what is Godís truth in this situation--not what do I want, or how do I feel, or what do I wish for, or even what looks like the best thing to me or someone else, but what is true. That way we can look back at what we do with clean hands and a clean conscience, having built our efforts on the rock of Christís truth, not on the sand of the wisdom of men, no matter how appealing that might be.
One closing thought. Jesus told his disciples that the secular world would know that they were Christians by their love (agape) for one another. One way to see that working in the light of what I have just said is that the world will know we are Christian by our willingness to act in self-sacrificial ways (the root meaning of agape) by submitting ourselves to the truth of Christ in the spirit of Romans 12:1-2 ďI appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.Ē Our self-sacrificial love of the truth will lead us to embrace Godís truth and repent of error as we define our Christian walk over the coming months.
My prayer is that God will grant us, both individually and as parishes, through the grace Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, a full measure of this love, thereby meeting all our needs, enlightening all our decisions, ennobling all our speech, keeping our feet on the straight and true path of His wisdom. Looking forward to His grace and truth, I say ďAmen.Ē (10-8-03)