In a recent session that I facilitated with a church I was asked: What is the core of the Christian message? Why might Christianity appeal to someone? I was then asked to summarize in writing the verbal response that I gave in that session. Below is my response.
The Christian message is ultimately about redemption, renewal, transformation, and hope. If one reads the entire Biblical narrative – from the creation story in Genesis, through the Israelite journey to the Promised Land, to Jesus’ ministry on earth, to Christ’s death and resurrection, to the Kingdom here on earth and the one yet to come referenced in Revelation – humans are continuously called into right relationship with self, God, others, and creation. This quest for right relationship is highlighted by the continued paradox of sin and brokenness and disappointments of some kind with the opportunity for complete transformation, healing, mercy, and grace. But we only understand the hope of Christianity if we read and understand the Scripture in its entirety – the Old Testament is incomplete without the New Testament and vice versa. There is no hope found in and through Christ’s death and resurrection if we do not fully appreciate the context leading up to this watershed event.
Why Christianity? In short, Christianity is a hopeful message that invites humans to participate alongside a God who is active in the world and who cares deeply about humans and creation. Christianity is rooted in a relevant, timeless, and redemptive narrative that calls humanity toward renewal and transformation. Of course, humans are involved and by nature human are imperfect; humans regrettably commit all kinds of injustices in the name of Christianity. This last point reminds us of the human component to all forms of religion. Humans help to shape religious beliefs, rituals, practices, and experiences – they are not simply handed down “from above.” This is why, among other reasons, a sociological understanding of religion is essential.