If you’re a Christian, have you every thought about why you are a Christian? Have you ever asked yourself that question – why am I a Christian?
I was having a conversation with someone I had just met. In our first video conference they noticed all the guitars hanging on the wall behind me. They commented on what a nice studio I have and then asked if I play in any bands.
That struck a nerve with me, because all my life I’ve had these insecurities about not playing in a band. Sometimes it feels like you’re not a serious musician, or a respected musician, if you’re not playing in a band of some sort. Plus, sometimes it just feels like you’re missing out on a whole lot of fun!
I scrambled for things to say. I told him how I play in a jazz duo (and wanted to add that I do so every week, just to make myself sound more legitimate). I also mentioned that I do a lot of solo stuff and studio work. I told him that I had been working that day on recording some meditation music for an affirmation video I was creating.
The thought also crossed my mind to tell him that I play at church a lot, but, at the time of writing this, it’s not with a band. Also, since I didn’t know this person very well, I wasn’t sure if mentioning that I am a Christian was an appropriate or helpful move. That affirmation video I was creating? I didn’t mention to him that it was a Christian affirmation video.
For a lot of people, being a Christian isn’t cool.
What went through my mind then was a recollection of an interview I had heard a while back. Father Richard Rohr was being interviewed on a podcast (The Deconstructionists or The Liturgists…one of those “-ists”), and one of the questions they asked him was why Christianity?
I quickly jotted down on a piece of scratch paper – in shorthand – the question, y r u a xian, for some self-reflection later on.
Well, the thoughts in this article are those reflections.
What is a Christian?
First, I think it may be helpful to have some context about what it means to me to be a Christian.
To me, being a Christian means to follow Christ. It doesn’t mean to be someone who goes to church on a regular basis, knows a lot of scriptures, wears crosses or has a bumper sticker that says “honk if you love Jesus”. It means you study the life of Jesus, his heart and character, and begin to think like he thought, speak like he spoke and act like he acted.
It’s an active thing. You participate in it. I call it walking with the Lord, or walking in his footsteps. Imitating. Doing as he did.
After all, you are going to follow someone. Whether you are an atheist or a believer, we all have beliefs (another word for opinions), and those beliefs and opinions are informed by others. So, we are all following someone, or a sum of someones.
Why am I a Christian?
I think this is a really great question for Christians to reflect on. I mean, when you think of it, if someone asked you why you are a Christian, and you didn’t really know why or have an answer – especially an answer that carries some meaningful weight – things could get a little awkward. It’s probably why the apostle Peter wrote in his letter…
“…if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” (1 Peter 3:15 NLT)
The Words of Life
We are, I believe, first and foremost and primarily spiritual beings. Everything that has been created in the material world began as a thought. Everything has a spiritual origin. We begin with the spirit.
So, in other words, the spirit is important. We have a physical body that needs attention and care, or it will die. We see it, we feel it. It’s hard to ignore it. The reason we tend to neglect the spirit, though, is because we don’t see it. Out of sight out of mind.
Just as our physical bodies need food, water, air, rest, exercise and a way to eliminate waste to stay healthy, so our spirits need regular care as well. Our spirits, just like our bodies, are systems. To get something good out, you need to put something good in. Or, as we say in the music recording business, “garbage in, garbage out”.
Spirit is thought. Words.
Words are powerful. Words create worlds. We need powerful words, positive words.
There is this story about Jesus having a conversation with his disciples after a bunch of his followers had just deserted him. Let’s listen in…
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67-68 NIV)
We won’t get into just exactly what is meant by that. Suffice to say, ’tis a good thing, and, I would say, something that everyone wants.
The main point here is that without the words of life, our spirits, the most important part of who we are, will die.
I think Peter asked a great question. Essentially he said, “Lord, what other options do we have?”
You and I don’t have to follow Christ. There are plenty of other options out there.
I am a Christian because Jesus has the words of eternal life. His words give me life. They make me feel truly alive – when I put them into practice.
And that’s the key.
I have put them into practice, and I have found them to be trustworthy and true. And, if you want to find out for yourself whether Jesus’ words are the words of life or not, all you have to do is try putting them into practice. As Jesus said,
“Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.” – (John 7:17 NIV)
I want to build my life on a firm foundation. Jesus’ words are a firm foundation. (Matthew 7:24 NIV)
There’s not a friend
There was a point in my life where I was in a very dark and scary place. I was involuntarily cut off from a lot of my closest relationships. All the people that I would normally confide in were inaccessible. It was pretty dramatic and traumatic.
Psalm 88 explains pretty well what I was feeling, but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. In that case, The Scream by Edvard Munch tells the story well…
Alienated and cut off from the fellowship of others, this painting seems to convey pretty well the feelings of disorientation, fear and confusion.
It was in that time the words of a song came to have particularly significant meaning to me.
There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus
No, not one
No, not one
No night so dark but his love can cheer us
No, not one
No, not one
Jesus knows all about our troubles
He will guide til the day is done
There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus
No, not one
No, not one
The thing is, no matter what people do to you, no matter if everyone deserts you, you still have a friend in Jesus who said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
In that very dark time, I felt the assurance of the presence of Jesus with me. I knew, even if I had access to no one else, I still had a connection with him.
When difficult things happen, you could say, “God, why did you let that happen?” or you could say, “God, I’m so glad you were with me through that. I don’t know what would’ve happened to me if I wasn’t aware of your presence. I can’t imagine the pain of the people who have to go through these kinds of challenges without knowing or acknowledging that you are right there all along.”
Jesus is well and alive today.
You are what you eat
You know, it’s interesting. You can’t really tell what young people eat. Their bodies typically have such a high metabolism that, no matter what they eat, they look young and healthy, and they have a lot of energy.
When you get older, though…it starts to show, doesn’t it?
When people are older you can tell who has been eating healthy and who hasn’t – generally speaking.
The results of what we put into our systems – whether that be our bodies or our spirits – are not always readily apparent. Eventually, though, it begins to show. We create habits of internalizing inputs. As we get older, those habits get harder and harder to break. We become addicted to what we consume. Suddenly, all that garbage and junk food that we’ve grown accustomed to is not metabolizing so fast. It starts to catch up with us.
I like the “calories” that the words of life give me. I burn off those calories by doing God’s will – putting it into practice. As a result, I’m healthy, spiritually speaking.
That’s why I am a Christian.
As for me and my household…
Have you ever noticed how a family tends to eat the same things?
A while back my wife started noticing that she was having reactions to gluten, so she started a gluten-free diet. This was back when the whole gluten-free movement was much less developed than it is now. There weren’t that many options.
We all tried what she was eating. I likened it to eating sand. It was awful. For a time, my wife was going to be alone in her gluten-free endeavors while the rest of us ate “normal” food.
Eventually, though, the gluten-free options got better and more numerous. Now, our whole family shares in the gluten-free journey.
Though we all have our own little different preferences when it comes to food, for the most part we all eat the same thing at our meal times together.
I have also become much more aware of how sugar and carbs can tend to be unhealthy. I have considerably reduced my intake of those, and my family has followed suit.
What I consume and do spiritually as a father and a husband effects not only me. It has an impact on my wife and children as well, and that’s another reason I am a Christian. As the ancient Hebrew leader Joshua once declared…
“But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 NLT)
This sounds similar to the conversation Jesus was having with Peter. You have options. Which will you choose? And, as the great prophet Neil Peart of the band (yes, I said “band”) RUSH once said,
“If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.” (Freewill by Rush, Permanent Waves)
As for me and my family, we will walk with the Lord. My children don’t stand a chance without the words and lifestyle of Jesus. My marriage doesn’t stand a chance without the words and lifestyle of Jesus.
There’s just too much at stake to not be a Christian. If anyone asks you why you are a Christian, you might find yourself saying, “How could I not be? Why would I want to choose any other way?”
Why anyone would want to face this world – both the external and internal world – without Jesus is beyond me. He just offers too much hope, too much comfort, too much assurance and security and love.
The proof is in the pudding.