Friedrich Nietzsche said despairingly that God is dead. He also wrote, “The person who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” For those who are sincerely curious about why there are followers of the risen Christ, here is the why and the how of Christian life.
The Christian faith is a commitment in trust to the God who is love. This God of love has revealed himself to us in many ways: in his creation of nature, in his providential care of history, in his prophets and in his Scriptures. But the Christian God is revealed decisively in the historical reality of the person and the life of Jesus of Nazareth who is God’s manifestation of himself to the world. The fullness of this revelation is the death and resurrection of Christ which is known as the Paschal Mystery. This is a mystery, not in the sense of something unknowable, but as a pattern for one’s life, a template for all who identify with Christ in faith through baptism. This Christ event also discloses who we are in this world: God’s creatures graced with the possibility of union with God.
This Christian faith is not simply a belief in an explanation of our existence, although it is that. It is a way of life and a wisdom for living it. The universal clue to God is grace, grace as an unmerited gift. This grace is the gift of life and the gift of love, which is disclosed most fully in the historical person and the life of Jesus Christ. The Christian engages human life in this world by being open to that grace in history and in nature and in one’s own journey. Accepting God’s grace gives meaning to this present world and hope for a future reality not yet fulfilled in this present conflicted society.
It is a sad historical fact that there are significant divisions within the Christian faith. The difference between Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox is more structural than theological with a mutual recognition of sacraments. Further divisions among Christian denominations are not insignificant, yet there is fundamental common ground as expressed in the 1999 joint declaration of the Lutheran World Federation and the Vatican Office for Christian Unity. A key sentence in that document says, “Together we believe: by grace alone, our faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.”
This Christian faith is a risk. It is a risk taken in the trust that, in spite of grave human suffering, we ourselves and all creation are held in God’s redemptive love and given the possibility of his grace being fulfilled in each of us and in the whole of society. With that trust, the Christian attempts to live a life of faith expressed through justice and charity, a life of discipleship in imitation of the life of Christ. Such a life bears the unique risk of loving God who is love itself, a risk which can enable one to become a better person and to make this a better world.