The following paragraph is what I believe constitutes the shared beliefs about Jesus of most Christians I know personally:
Jesus is all about love and compassion. Jesus loves us so much that He died for us so we may live. Jesus was a man, Jewish, but He was also of God. His heavenly Father was the God of Abraham. Jesus fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham for a Jewish Messiah, but Christ was not what was expected and He was eventually crucified in one of the most inhumane ways imaginable. Jesus conquered death so that we could be forgiven all our sins, believe in Him, and receive eternal life. Jesus explained the way to God is through Him. He offers salvation not just to Jews but to Gentiles (non-Jews) too. Jesus taught that we do not earn eternal life through acts or deeds; it is a gift from God. God gave us “free will” to choose whether to love and obey Him. There are two laws we must obey: We must love God above all else and we must love each other as we love ourselves (including our enemies). We can become better Christians — but it requires an ongoing commitment and effort. We are forgiven when we make mistakes not because we deserve it but because we are loved. We sin because we are human and humans are imperfect. Jesus taught us not to judge others, and we are to forgive others when they sin against us. Although we are imperfect, we also can be beautiful in our humanity because there is a divine spark within us. When we pray, we are communicating with God and Jesus. When we pray and obey God, we can facilitate change consistent with God’s will. It is important to give thanks to God for the gifts He has given us. Whether we believe in God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is ultimately a matter of faith; it is a matter of the heart; it is a matter of choice. It is impossible to believe in Christ and not be changed by it.
I believe all these things to be true. To me, they form the “Christian basics” of my belief: Christianity 101.
But I also believe that many Christians stop growing in our faith after we learn the basics. We simply learn the basics and try to live off of that for the rest of our lives, refreshing ourselves periodically with what we already know — with what is familiar to us.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Let us stop going over the same old ground again and again, always teaching those first lessons about Christ. Let us go on instead to other things and become mature in our understanding, as strong Christians ought to be. Surely we don’t need to speak further about the foolishness of trying to be saved by doing good, or about the necessity of faith in God; you don’t need further instruction about baptism and spiritual gifts and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. The Lord willing, we will go on now to other things.” (Hebrews 6:1-3)
It can be scary pushing ourselves to develop further, especially when it involves our relationship with Christ. It’s scary because it requires further reflection, further prayer, further study, and further change. In the face of fear, we often hold on so tightly to what we currently have that we crush its potential.
When facing an opportunity to deepen our relationship with Christ, it’s easy to feel alone because of the intensely personal nature of our decision. “Most get little reassurance from others, or even have full confidence that they are totally right. Setting out is always a leap of faith, a risk in the deepest sense of the term, and yet an adventure too. The familiar and the habitual are falsely reassuring…”. (Father Richard Rohr, “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,” Jossey-Bass, 2011)
When the time is right for each of us, perhaps we’ll be asked to challenge our faith to the next level. Or perhaps something happens in our life and we will be pushed. In my case, the time is right now. My spiritual hunger has become insatiable and my soul is thirsting for more knowledge about God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit than I can absorb without Their help.
If it is God’s will, my spiritual journey will take me far beyond the basics. It’s what I want. I believe that the door on which I have been knocking has opened. My heart is telling me that my life with Christ is just getting started and the best part of my relationship with God is yet to come.
A beloved, familiar friend who has never given up on me — my friend Jesus –is challenging me to reach higher and take some risks for Him. I will. It’s a matter of trust.
For it makes no sense to stop climbing when the summit is so close and He is urging me on.
For a climber who won’t risk has no faith at all.
Photo by Mihtiander