DEAR FATHER PAUL: What is the single most import thing for anyone to know about the Christian faith? S. K.
DEAR S. K.: Sorry, I tried. I really did. But I can’t do your question justice by listing only one thing when, to me, there are (at least) two.
First … That God loves us and that he wants us to love him. Simply put, that God wants everyone to know and experience the boundless, unlimited, length, breadth and depth of his love for us and that he wants us to love him in return.
God loves all of his creation unconditionally, especially (all of) humankind. John 3:16 & 17 is simple and plain … (King James Version) “For God so loved the world (all of his creation, but especially humankind) that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
Our modern culture wrongly teaches that God is some mean, grouchy old man with a long grey beard sitting up on a cloud just waiting for each of us to sin so he can “zap us” with a bolt of lightening and send us to eternal punishment in hell! NO … THAT IS NOT GOD AT ALL! God is the perfect, loving Heavenly (Spiritual) Father of every man, woman, boy & girl on planet earth. And he loves each of us so much that he sent his own son, Jesus, into the world to take our place, paying the penalty of death that we each justly deserve for our own sins. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, God resurrected Jesus from the dead to demonstrate that the penalty for sin had indeed been paid in-full and forever and is now deemed acceptable by God for any person who will receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.
The Apostle Paul affirms all of this in simple words that any of us can understand in II Corinthians 5:19 (New Living Translation) “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, NO LONGER COUNTING PEOPLE’S SINS AGAINST THEM ……”
The wonderful Good News is that God is NOT MAD AT US! In fact, he has already forgiven each of us of our sins. The cross of Jesus proves this. We simply have to accept Jesus’ sacrifice and his free gift of forgiveness and eternal life on his terms, not ours.
Second …that God wants to have the same, close, personal and loving relationship with each of us that he had with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before their fall. In essence, he wants every human being to become part of “his family” as an adopted son or daughter. Then, he wants us to KNOW HIM as he knows us …deeply and personally..
This is powerfully illustrated in Mark 3 at the very start of Jesus’ ministry. He is selecting his original twelve disciples and the Bible says these words in verses 13 – 14 (New International Version). “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted and they came to him. He appointed twelve THAT THEY MIGHT BE WITH HIM ……..”
The key words in this passage are “that they might BE WITH HIM.” We know from the Bible that the disciples after this “calling,” spent the next three years in close, intimate, 24/7 contact with Jesus during which he taught them, both by word and example, what it meant to truly know him, be one of his followers and practice the principles of God’s Kingdom.
Every Christian today (just like the disciples) is also “called” by God.
And, like the disciples, we are “called” to “BE WITH” Jesus and as a result to come to KNOW Jesus. Many would say that this is, in fact, a Christian’s highest “calling.”
Actually knowing God in a relationship is a central feature of Christianity. It separates Christianity from all other religions. That Christians can actually have … and are encouraged by God to have … a close, personal and intimate relationship with the Almighty God, the creator and ruler of the universe! Just think of it. We are invited and urged by God to actually KNOW HIM. Wow! How sad that so few of us will put forth the effort.
Do you have a question or a comment? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will try to answer your question in the paper.
Father Paul Massey, is Canon to the Bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South, of the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church and is assigned to the Cathedral of Christ the King in Sharpsburg, Georgia.