By Jim Tune
I wonder how often we fall for forms of Christianity, ideas that capture us because they fit well within the borders of our comfort zone. We truncate our faith when we redefine it in ways that are less than, more than, or even outside the essence of Christianity. Thus this list of things Christianity is more than:
1. Christianity is more than religion. Many people have so long identified the words religion and Christianity that many consider them to be synonyms. Religion emphasizes systems, propositions, piety, rules, observances, and human effort. “Religion,” according to Christian author and minister Doug Banister, “is the archrival of intimate spirituality. . . . Religion, a tiresome system of manmade do’s and don’ts, woulds and shoulds—impotent to change human lives but tragically capable of devastating them—is what is left after a true love for God has drained away. Religion is the shell that is left after the real thing has disappeared.” Religion confuses form with substance. But the form is not what satisfies. Jesus did not say, “I have come that you might have religion and practice it more rigorously.” Jesus actually said, “I have come that you [they] may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
2. Christianity is more than rules. We reduce Christianity when we make it about behavioural checklists and rule-keeping. If your faith is mainly about dos and don’ts, it offers a mere ethical code to live by. Other religions offer this. Many atheists adhere to ethical codes of behavior. If you reduce the Bible to a rule book, you are functioning on a spiritually immature level. Jesus challenged the religious leaders of his day on this point again and again. Rules become essential only when love does not lead our behavior.
3. Christianity is more than moralism. The way of Jesus is bigger than morality. French philosopher and lay theologian Jacques Ellul said, “Morality is the means whereby the Christian dodges death in Christ and fashions a living way of his own. It is the worst of all illusions.” To paraphrase Paul in Galatians 2:21: “To live morality is to nullify the grace of God, for if goodness comes through morality, then Christ died needlessly.”
4. Christianity is more than going to Heaven when you die. Most religions focus on the afterlife and how to prepare for it. As much as I appreciate Rick Warren, he is wrong when he identifies this life as a “dress rehearsal,” a place to prepare for the “real” life to come. I long for Heaven. It is a part of my hope. But if I fixate only on Heaven and a faith limited to an otherworldly destination, I may experience frustrating disconnects between this life and the next. The kingdom of God is more than a realm we enter when we die, but a way of life we can choose to enter now!
5. Christianity is more than a belief system. As important as it may be, let’s not lose sight of the fact that belief systems depend largely on the human mind and its ability to know. Truth is more than a collection of propositional statements within an agreed belief system affirmed by human reason. Truth has a name: Jesus! Christianity is Christ!