Christianity has received a fair bit of harsh dealings throughout history. At times, rightly so. The modern Christian Church has failed in many ways. Amongst others, it has failed to live up to the moral standards it seems to profess; defend the rights of the weak and vulnerable; and live exemplarily and sacrificially in a world where money holds more weight than morals.
However, it is undeniable that Judeo-Christian values do permeate the very society we have grown and learnt to thrive in. The founding of many charities, non-governmental organizations and worthy causes carry some semblances of these values. Notions such as generosity and fairness shape and continue to shape the world we live in, and although I may be making an assumption in saying that without the founding of the Christian faith, these values might not be the ones we cherish and practice today, I think it’s safe to say that our societies (especially those of the Western world) would experience a very different social order if it wasn’t for the introduction of the core value of the Christian faith- love, which manifests itself in sacrificial living, generosity, justice and fairness.
Living in a liberal, Western country, it sometimes gets difficult for me to see Christianity as being more than a set of values to be adhered to. The political sphere is fragile right now as society begins to see and debate on the tensions that exist between the need for secularism within the public domain, and adherence to historical Christian values that are part of the country we live in. Although it is important to have these discussions, often times we tend to associate the central doctrine of Christianity as being merely a set of historical values; and the sole mission of a Christian is to spread the good news of the Christian Value System, without which society will collapse.
I won’t go into the merits of Christian values in today’s world, that would be messy.
However, I would like to remind the reader that Jesus Christ isn’t a value system we can implement. He didn’t commission us to reshape the world until every nation state adopts Judeo-Christian values. Jesus Christ is a person who made claims to be God, and He invites us into a personal relationship with a loving, living God.
Of course, Jesus holds values as well, and he lived out these out to the fullest during His time here on earth. Forgiveness, when He healed the ear of the soldier who was sent to imprison Him; Mercy, when He healed the lepers and blind; Fairness, when He hung out with the socially unpopular; Love, when He hung on the cross for the world to mock and see.
It is within the context of believing in a restored relationship with God that we Christians should work and conduct our everyday affairs. It is within this context that we may try to engage in difficult discussions with others regarding differing doctrinal beliefs and values. And at times, we will fail. At times, we will recognise the difficulty of God’s command to be in this world but not of this world. At times we will begin to understand why ‘longsuffering’ is called what it is. But we don’t forget what is central to our faith: Jesus Christ and what He has done for us in restoring us back to God.
I myself don’t have a crystallised understanding of how Christians should behave in every circumstance of every world. If you give me a hypothetical ‘what would a Christian do?’ type of scenario, I would probably not be able to answer you. Heck, I wouldn’t always know how to answer a ‘what would Jesus do?’ question either. I don’t know everything, even as a God-fearing Christian who reads the Bible. But what I know is this: that a man Jesus Christ lived in our pages of history; that He took all of the sufferings of the world upon Himself, died, rose again, and grants those who know they need Him eternal life with our Creator.
Once we detach the personhood of Christ from Christianity, we are left with the values that we couldn’t embody perfectly, the very reason why we need Christ in the first place! Believing in Christ is so different from believing in Christian values. One gives life, and the other suffocates. To which are you holding on to?