How does the cross make one a Christian?
Just as the Jewish priests had to use the blood of sacrificed animals in order to be ritually pure, one has to use the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
Submitting to Christ means following His teaching and His commands, and that requires the participation of an entire person: it means changing whatever needs to be changed to align your life according to His, and it typically includes requisite changes in belief, behavior, perception, and priorities.
Followers of Christ are called disciples, and as the root of the word “disciple” is the same as the word “discipline,” it implies that the Christian life requires discipline to be enacted, because it isn’t easy.
Effort has become a dirty word for many Christians because there is a temptation to view effort as a way of earning brownie points with God; as a way of feeling like you are earning God’s love and approval, or as a way of making you feel like you are better than others.
None of those are right.
Effort is integral to the Christian life, just not in those ways, not at the expense of grace, and not with an understanding that all “your” effort must come from you (it ought to come from your reliance on the power of God).
Many people avoid Christianity due to the perception that it’s just this massive list of “thou shalt nots” that sucks the joy out of life.
Unfortunately this is also how numerous Christians understand their faith, and it’s an easy mindset to fall into.
But the way Jesus interacted with people proclaimed – and the Good News (Gospel) He came to declare is – GOD LOVES YOU.
Yes, you. And me. And He accepts you JUST AS YOU ARE. No conditions. Unmerited grace and love.
That doesn’t mean God approves of everything we do, every lifestyle we live, every choice we make, or anything like that.
But it means despite all that, regardless of how broken we are, He LOVES and ACCEPTS us. And He is waiting for us to run to Him. Everything else is built off this foundation.
That’s the basic gist of Christianity.
I’m not primarily trying to convince anyone to become a Christian – not that I’m opposed, but that’s not my main point.
Being a Christian is a hard thing to choose even if one can see good reasons to do so, because giving up control of your life and submitting to someone else, even if that someone else is the God who loves and accepts you unconditionally, is quite difficult, and it’s something we all struggle with.
My life is a constant tug-of-war between me relinquishing control to God and yanking it back.
I think the Christian perception of humanity is a valuable one even if a person chooses not to be a Christian.
I hope the portrait presented here is one that people could look at and say, “that’s a good way of choosing to view human identity, even if I don’t agree with all the details.”
That view in a nutshell: all humans are intrinsically priceless. Our identity is found in our worth as humans, not in any other secondary personal factors (race, gender, age, religion, sexuality, nationality, political orientations, careers, income levels, etc.).
That’s pretty much it, really.
This is increasingly not the perception of society, which is embracing a kind of naturalistic mindset.
Our culture lauds the ideal of the individual who is always questioning, skeptical and not trusting; the individual who – in a very Nietzschian way – bucks group-think and creates his or her own reality and identity (which, ironically, becomes its own kind of group-think, demonstrating that we’re all drinking Kool Aid; the question is, “Whose are we drinking?”).