Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Makes Me a Christian?

This Fall we are studying the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament to answer one simple question, “Why  did Jesus come?” You see in Genesis, the story of the beginning of life on Earth, we hear the original purpose of God’s creation, namely for us to live in communion with Him. In fact, a proper understanding of Genesis in this way encourages us to a closer relationship with a loving and merciful and loyal God, Who despite our many attempts to run away from Him, continues to reach out to His creation for the sole purpose of bringing us closer to Himself. A proper reading of Genesis reveals that God isn’t angry with His creation; He is patient always giving us another opportunity to repent and come closer to Him.

Whether it is the story of the Garden of Eden, the Flood, or the slavery in Egypt, God is always giving His people an opportunity to embrace Him and live in communion with Him. As we pray in the Divine Liturgy, he “did not cease doing everything” until He led us into Heaven. These stories in Genesis, especially the story of the Garden and the Flood, express God’s willingness to continually “start over again” with His creation never once allowing us, as humanity, to die. So when He took on flesh from the Virgin Mary and became Man for our salvation, we witness yet another opportunity for us “start over” and reestablish a relationship with Him.

Each time God allows us to “start over” He establishes a new covenant with us, first in the Garden, then with Noah, then with Abraham, and finally with the Holy Apostles and His Church. The presence of a new covenant does not mean that God goes breaks His previous covenant. God always keeps His promises. Instead He establishes a new promise (new to us at least) as He continues His original plan for us to live in communion with Him for all eternity.

Herein is the answer to our question, “What makes me a Christian?” God makes me a Christian. Being a Christian is not “of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1.13) You see, being a Christian isn’t something we declare, but something that God bestows upon us, once we have received Him (John 1.12) at our Baptism. When Jesus Christ took on flesh for our salvation, He was establishing a new covenant with humanity where He promised to conquer death once and for all. Just as in the Garden and in Noah’s Ark, the only “thing” we did as humans, the only role we played in the covenant, was to allow God to be God and our Father.

So being a Christian isn’t something we declare, it is something we are in our very essence when we allow God to rule as our Lord and King. In fact, at our Baptism we declare, “I believe in Him as King and as God.” It is only then that, having recited the Nicene Creed which outlines what we believe about God, that we are baptized into Christ. It is only then, having embraced Him as King that we are united to Him.

What makes me a Christian? BEING a Christian day and night; BEING dedicated to God as King and Lord; BEING united to God through Holy Baptism and Chrismation, and living as if it is true. Only one question remains….Are YOU a Christian? And if not, what options has God given you to “start over” and come closer to Him?

God’s new covenant is His Church. Just as Noah had to enter and live in the Ark in order to start over, we also must enter and live in the Church in order to start over. Why not take God up on His offer and start over by returning to Church (on time) and living the Orthodox Christian life with fervor?

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