He came. He lived. He died. He rose. He will come again.
And what happened in between is no mystery to us.
One-third of the world population now follows Christ, and hence called Christians.
During Jesus’ ministry, he prayed that his future followers would exhibit a special kind of unity that would be a testimony to the world. So what happened? 41,000 is the count of Christian denominations with some cultural over lapses, as per a recent survey.
Even when they appear to get along, they divide up into hundreds of different groups, churches, and denominations. For those who are not Christians, it seems confusing. Why are there sometimes four different churches on the same street? Even for believers like me, this question arises.
Born in a Malankara Orthodox Christian family, completing my schooling from a Convent School, having a good bunch of Christian friends belonging to various Sects and being a curious kid, I have had the time of my life exploring all kinds of Christian beliefs and faiths.
Understanding Christianity wasn’t easy for me, things were so contradictory. While most of my family and friends strongly believed in what was taught to them from the very start, I was a puzzled kid. I had to question the Wrongs and affirm the Rights.
While some churches believe in Infant baptism, some insisted on preparing Children for Holy Communion and Baptism.
Some called Mary honorably ‘Mother of God’ and hence believed in interceding to her while others differed and considered her just a vessel for carrying Christ and nothing more.
Some believed in giving up their ornaments and others ridiculed the idea of it.
Some were blamed to be praying like Pagans and others of being too loud and unstructured.
Some held intercessory prayers, fast and feasts for Saints while other upheld the idea that Jesus is the only mediator.
Some upheld that Cross is a sign of salvation and protection while others thought of it as another form of idolatry.
These are just few of them. The differences and ridicules have no bounds, perhaps getting stronger with time.
I always stood puzzled as each one brought in their own biblical and logical references to prove their point. I felt some of their faiths were correct in their own terms while some were outrageous.
Once I was questioning one of my Priest of why things are like the way they are now. To a point he could handle my curiosity and then he ran out of words soon and asked me to perhaps meditate on things, read the bible and said God will talk to me.
I thought I wouldn’t be satisfied enough with his remedy.
But that was the day.
I didn’t hear God answering my questions but I found things that were more Christian than those things what I was always puzzled about. Bible was a treasure and being a Christian, a treat.
While conflict was all I saw around, I began to see the beauty of it. Despite these differences, there are a few central tenets that binds all Christians together, regardless of our particular church, denomination, culture, or geographical location.Some of the major focus points of being a Christian to me were:
- Christ inspired us to love everyone with all our heart. He gave us the strength to forgive our enemies . “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?” (Matthew 5:43-47)
- We can be so much more hopeful of our lives and know that what Christ does for is the best. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’’ (Matthew 6:34)
- Serve as many as we can. We are his instruments in this world, be a good one. “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom.” (Mark 10:42-45)
- He is there, listening to us, in all despairs and needs. A man on his knees will have everything he seeks. “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:9-10)
- He is our peace, Eternal peace. He calms our troubled hearts. “I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
While all these should be what One third of the world should be following, discussing and preaching about. Naah, But that’s not the case.
Most of our differences are just traditional and hence we follow the faiths and beliefs of the family we are born in. It’s a modern day scenario of Christian churches to be ridiculing each other to all extents possible. Instead of being messengers of God, we act like freaks. Many of us look down on each other’s beliefs. But is that what Christ wanted when he came? While other beliefs and practices are important, and often the cause of disagreements, they are secondary.
God’s story is bigger than our differences, and if we continue to seek him according to the longing and desires that he has given us, we can all begin to find our places in his grand story. Let us all be Jesus freaks!