Why am I a Christian

This may be my most personal post, yet. Don’t let that chase you away. I think I have been pushing towards this ever since I started this blog and I knew that I would have to voice my reasons for being a Christian. My reasons may not be yours, but they are mine.

Recently, I answered a reader’s question (Are You a Progressive?) and that got me to thinking deeper about my faith.

At church, we are doing a study of 1 John and my bible study group is wrestling with Dietrich Bonheoffer’s Cost of Discipleship (you can read my blog posts on this). This summer my pastors have been preaching through ‘The Sermon on the Mount.’

I have realized that my being a Christian should matter in my life and others. This may seem obvious, but how many truly live this truth out in a day-to-day basis. If more would live this truth, our world would not be as messed up as it is. Christians would be known by their love and care of others and not as judgmental, self-righteous dweebs.  We’d be known as Jesus followers not mere churchgoers.

I remember when this realization first hit me and that’s how it seemed at the time, as if someone had swatted the back of my head to say wake up or get with it. I put my book down looked around thinking of all the ways I’d acted in the past that were not aligned with my Christian faith. I prayed. After a moment, I went back to my book with hope that I could live my faith more often. I knew then that the pretending was over and I had to either turn my back on Jesus or follow him to wherever he is leading me.

I chose and still choose to follow Jesus.

So, all this got me thinking: Why am I a Christian?

If I am a Christian because it’s the ‘in’ thing, to look good in others eyes, or for some reward I might gain, or to fit in than I am not a Christian. It’s as simple as that. As I see it and I think the bible and church history will back me up on this, there’s only one reason to be a Christian. That reason: the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus compel you to follow him.

This question of why while important for all believers is especially important to me since I come from outside the church. Not raised Christian, I chose this path on my own, so I need to formulate an answer for myself and to share with others. That is the main reason I started this blog to speak my faith, share it with others and join the larger conversation.

I was born into an LDS family. On my Mother’s side, we can trace our heritage all the way back to the pioneers. I studied this church and its teachings and found I could not endorse them if I were to be honest. I was angry. After discovering that the only way I had ever known was a lie, I rejected God. I was an atheist. I was done with God. The thing I didn’t know at the time was God was not done with me. Yet, I couldn’t completely give up on all things spiritual. I started studying Buddhism and reading New Age authors. I liked what I found in these areas, but they didn’t quite satisfy. I sensed some presence around me, some force not that I would identify this with the god of religion. I equated it more with the force talked about in Star Wars. I didn’t think then that it was a personal God who loved me in spite of myself and wanted a relationship with me. As I continued reading Buddhist and New Age authors, I started to see references to Jesus and the cross. I started to be led back, or maybe I should say led to Jesus for the first time. I read Brain McLaren, Marcus Borg, Karen Armstrong and others. Yet, it was Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh and his book Living Buddha Living Christ that got me to read the bible. I started on the Gospel of John and when I got to 10:10—I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full—that was when I discovered a new Jesus, new to me, anyway.  I put my bible down and prayed. I don’t remember what words I used. It wasn’t the sinner’s prayer, though I have prayed that a few times too. It was then I became a Christian and I have trying to understand that choice ever since.  

President Obama in an interview with ABC News in September 2010 said, “I’m a Christian by choice. My family didn’t — frankly, they weren’t folks who went to church every week.  And my mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn’t raise me in the church.”

The president said he “came to Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead — being my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me.  And, I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes, and that we achieve salvation through the grace of God.  But, what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people and do our best to help them find their own grace. That’s what I strive to do.  That’s what I pray to do every day.  I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith.”

I think President Obama is alluding to that truth I mentioned before; it should matter than we’re Christians. It should make a difference first in our lives and then in others. This living of the Christian faith can be traced back to the apostles and first Christians. I think too many Christians are more concerned about orthodoxy and saying whose in and whose out and worrying about who believes what than loving and caring for their fellow man. They enjoy pointing fingers and heaping burdens on others. I think we need to do what Obama says he does and what Mother Teresa did: see God in others and help them find grace and healing now.

I am a Christian because I see in Jesus God. I look at Jesus and I see what is right and beautiful about life. I find Jesus to be the best and fullest expression of a human being. I want to live my life in the shadow of Jesus. When I read the New Testament there are time when I say yes and my soul leaps for joy, there are other times when I am pushed and challenged and want to shrink away, but Jesus grabs me and holds me and I know that these are the very things I need to hear to live my Christianity. I am not perfect; I don’t have it all together and never will. There are times that I surprise myself I usually disappoint myself. I am not as loving, selfless, or gracious as I should be. I have hurt people. I have regrets. I have made mistakes. I need a savior and am not so full of myself to think I could ever do it on my own. 

I chose the way of Jesus not because I’m saved, but because I go astray. When I say, “I am a Christian” I don’t speak with arrogance. I’m confessing my wrongs and that I need a Savior. I’m not strong, but profess my weakness and pray for the ability to carry me on. I’m not bragging, but admitting I have sinned and cannot ever repay the debt. I don’t claim to have it altogether, my flaws are too visible, but God loves me anyway, God loves me in spite of me, but loves so much to not let me stay that way. I do not wish to judge or point fingers at others. I only know I’m loved. I want to point others to the love of God in Christ Jesus.

That is why I am a Christian.

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