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Why are you a Christian?

Why are you a Christian

By Rev. John E. Jackson, Sr.

I am not using this shape to join with those from other faith traditions and of no faith tradition who like to beat up Christians and who go so far as to denigrate this ancient faith tradition.

I could just as well title this “Why are you a Muslim, or Hindu, or why do you practice Judaism or why are you a Hebrew Israelite or even why don’t you have a faith tradition?”

My intent is to help raise a question that I hope will cause all of us to re-evaluate “who we are, why we are and why we do what we do?”

Why are you [those who practice christianity] a Christian? Why do you associate yourself with this particular faith tradition? How did you come to accept Jesus as Lord of your life and claim the title of Christian?

Perhaps asking yourself this question and pondering the word “why” and not responding with the knee-jerk cliches that we often hear from far too many claim to be Christians you might find a deeper relationship with the author of the faith and live a more impactful life based on that Black African who walked the dusty streets of Galilee.

Are you a Christian because you were born into the religion because your parents were Christian? Did you ever have an orientation to what Christianity is and how your denomination came to be?

Are you a Christian because you believe America is a Christian nation therefore, you feel that it must be the appropriate faith tradition to be apart of? In coming to that conclusion, that America is a Christian nation did you ever read or research what the founders of this nation believed religiously?

Are you a Christian because you don’t want to spend eternity in Hell? Do you believe that “confessing Jesus as Lord,” will reserve your place in heaven? If so, and if confessing Jesus reserves your place in heaven then why should you have to live a “Godly”life? Isn’t your place reserved already by your confession of Jesus as Lord?

Are you a Christian because of any of the above reasons or for all of them in some way?

The word Christian in the Greek is Χριστιανός  and it was first mentioned in Acts 11:25-26. In fact it states that the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.

Christian meant then and now a person who follows Jesus The Christ in spiritual character and in one’s behavior.

To imitate Christ and to carry on the ministry and mission of Jesus Christ. It is important to reflect as Howard Thurman did in is classic book (which Dr. King carried with him every where he went) “Jesus and The Disinherited,” that Jesus was first a Jew and a member of an oppressed people.

Jesus was in fact an African Jew living in Palestine which was under Roman occupation. What therefore did Jesus do that we who call ourselves Christians should be endeavoring to imitate as followers?

Jesus organized poor African people of the Jewish faith and poor gentile people who were overwhelmed by an oppressive invasion from Europe/Rome.

In organizing poor people Jesus consistently taught and preached to these people that they mattered to God. And, that God was not only concerned about their daily lives but that God was empowering them through the presence of Jesus to change their earthly context from suffering to surviving to surmounting human limitations by God’s power.

Why are you a Christian? The question is not to dissuade anyone from being a follower of Jesus Christ but to help us remember why membership in this faith is more physically tangible than we have perceived it many times before.

We don’t see Jesus in the gospels laboring to build the largest congregation but we do see Jesus trying to convict people to commit to a cause bigger than them.

We don’t see Jesus in the gospels withholding spiritual resources and material assistance from people because they were not in his particular tradition, or group but we do see Jesus not only extending resources but using the faith examples of others outside his ethnic tradition as a bar for those in his tradition to aspire to.

We don’t see Jesus in the gospels condemning anyone except those who would stand in the way, or prohibit the most vulnerable from experiencing God’s abundant and extravagant Love and compassion.

Why are you a Christian? Is it to do these things that Jesus actually did and that have been recorded as a guide for each of us who claim kinship with the Christ?

There is a verse in the gospel of John that not only fascinates me but serves as a constant challenge to me in living out my faith and that records Jesus saying this to his disciples: “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater worlds than these, because I am going to the father.”

Why are you a Christian? Is it to do what Jesus did and do greater works according to his words?

What wonderful transforming works could be done by African descended people right here in Gary, Indiana that could reverberate across the hemisphere if we re-evaluated why we call ourselves Christians to recalibrate our faith walk toward what Jesus did.

Ase and Amen.

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