Why am I a Christian?
A question like that can get an answer on more than one level. Human beings are complex, and life is complex. There's my family and cultural history. There's my understanding of Christianity now, and the reasons why I now find it more intellectually and emotionally satisfying than any of the alternatives. In a Western context, we'd probably need to spend some time discussing various objections to Christianity, and why when examined they don't hold water. An answer that really got to the heart of things would not start with me, but with God, and with Jesus Christ.
But in this answer I don't really want to give a history of my life or an account of Christian teaching or answers as such. Those things are all important in their place. But, I want to explain why I need to be a question, and why you do too. Why must I be a Christian? When I ask that question, I remember a short exchange between Jesus and his disciple Peter, recorded in the Bible in the book named "John", in the 6th chapter:
From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"At its heart, being a Christian means believing that Jesus of Nazareth is "the Son of the living God", and the "Messiah" (God's appointed King and Deliverer, who came from heaven), and being a follower of Jesus means submitting to him as king in our lives. There's a lot to unpack in there, but for now I want to focus on one important part of it.
But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (verses 66-69)
As a follower of Jesus, the question "Do you also want to go away?" will come up a lot. Following Jesus is tough. It means living according to his teachings, not our feelings or desires. It's tough inside, because we'll soon find out that we're not the people we should be, or imagined ourselves to be. It's tough outside, because there are many other agendas in the world than Jesus'. Standing up for Jesus often brings trouble.
But when that question comes up in my heart and mind, I find it always followed by Simon Peter's answer. Where else would I go?
For one thing, of all the things I can doubt, I can never doubt that, deep down, I've got a basic problem of being corrupt. Human nature is corrupt, and "what's wrong with me" is not just temporary "slip-ups" or "mistakes" or "things I didn't really mean". No... I find that the Bible's description of humanity - including me - as being wrong *at root* is totally accurate. There's not just something wrong with what I occassionally do, or think... there's something wrong with me. I am what the Bible calls a sinner. Being selfish, being proud, being blind to other people and their needs and problems, and being so very slow to think about or seek after my Maker are all things that come naturally to me - even before they result in other particular wrongs that I do. I know, deep down, that that feeling that I in myself am not right is not just false guilt, or society making me feel to be something that I'm not. No: my sin is as certain a fact as I can lay my hands on anywhere in existence. I'm more sure that my sin and guilt exist than I am sure than you exist!
Perhaps you can persuade yourself that your conscience and the guilty it reminds you of corresponds to nothing real at all. It's just some weird by-product of evolution. I find that totally unbelievable. Evolution cannot even begin to explain how there is an "I" - a feeling, thinking, desiring, rejoicing, hurting, alive being, somewhere in "here", self-conscience, looking out in to the world. Stories about how genes can replicate are nice; but evolution can't deal with the most basic fact of your existence: that there is a you. We are not just bodies; we are souls. The ways we live always, every day, testifies that we believe that. Even the most angry of atheists still behaves, all the time, as if his personal existence is real and matters - that he's not just an empty, soul-less machine.
Who can take away my guilt? Who can forgive what I've done wrong in this world which I didn't make, but which God did?
The answer that I've come to learn is "Jesus Christ, alone". Muhammad did not die in my place, offering an innocent life to God to take away the guilt of mine. Buddha had a human nature every bit as wicked as mine. The wisdom of Socrates is, at the end of it, only wisdom about what someone ought to do - and can say nothing about how to deal with what I have already done, or about how to access a power to do the good that I already know I should be doing. Whenever I look at other religions, I find them telling me what I ought to do, or ought to have done. Christianity is radically different, because it tells us that what we do doesn't cut it... but that what Jesus Christ has already done and completed is more than enough... and that he gives it all to us a free gift. When God looks upon the followers of Jesus, he doesn't see all their evil - he sees the perfection of Jesus, and the perfect price that Jesus paid on the cross when he was crucified to take away all our wrongs.
If Jesus of Nazareth is not the Rescuer, whose death on the cross cleansed away my sin, then we have to face the fact that there is no Saviour. We're going to die without God's forgiveness. We're lost. We deserve God's anger and his punishment, and are kidding ourselves if we try to argue otherwise. We need Jesus. There's no other candidate. To whom else shall we go?
Why am I a Christian? Ultimately, because Jesus Christ the Rescuer brought about a day in my life when he showed and persuaded me that what he'd done on the cross when he did, perfectly met my need before God as a sinner. He showed me that his resurrection from the dead meant that he could supply me with all the heavenly power I'd need to be his follower, through thick and thin. He made me to understand that I could not work my way up in to heaven - but that he'd simply forgive me out of his amazing kindness.
Why am I still a Christian? Because he's kept those promises, and many more. He's helped me to grow. I'm not what I ought to be - but I know that I'm not what I was. I know that there's nobody else like him. Why would I not want to be a Christian? Where else would I go, either now for a relationship with the living God, or in eternity when I have to stand before God and have my life judged by him?
What Jesus did to me is what Christians call "conversion". It's not just an intellectual thing. It's the whole person. It's a whole new life from him and with him, day by day - and carrying on into eternity.
I thank you for reading, and hope that you'll seek it out and find that life too.