on the Christian
Before we can go into depth about the Christian faith, we must first ask ourselves the question who or what a Christian even is. “A Christian is someone who strives to be Christ-like” is one of the most common answers to such a question. In light of the purpose of this essay, it is a pretty good answer. “Someone who strives to be Christ-like”! “Christ-like” in what sense though? I believe that Christ Jesus lived as the perfect example according to two norms that to my understanding sum up the Christian faith: humility and obedience. Why exactly these two? I chose to concentrate on these two qualities because they are the perfect expression of the greatest commandment (Matthew 22: 36-40): the latter being the only appropriate response to God the Father, the former realized perfectly in the Incarnation out of love for mankind. This way of seeing Christ's life is best clarified by the Holy Bible itself saying:
“But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2: 7-8)
These two qualities therefore must be seen at the very center of the Christian faith. In a way, one could say that the two beams of the Cross upon which Christ Jesus was crucified are the beams of humility and of obedience. Thus, without such divine humility and obedience, we would all be lost!
It is important to note that humility and obedience are the direct opposites of pride and disobedience; these two leading to the fall of Satan and also to the fall of Adam and Eve. One could say that pride is the beginning of one's fall, disobedience its actualization. Thus sin is born through which death has come into the world (Romans 5: 12). By Christ's perfect humility and obedience far surpassing the pride and disobedience of both Satan and Adam and Eve, death is overcome and mankind lead to life everlasting.
Now, what does this mean for “the Christian”? The Christian sees in Christ Jesus the “way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14: 6). Therefore, he who wishes to call himself a Christian must of necessity emulate Christ. He is then bound to seeking - to the best of his abilities and with the grace of God – to live a life of humility and obedience. It is also a matter of humility and obedience that one realizes that one is unable to live such a life by one's own power. Once again, we look to Christ for the answer: He being the second person of the Holy Trinity is God and thereby cannot fail. We are certainly not God, and thus fail: we are imperfect, our nature is wounded. So how can we manage to emulate Christ in such a situation? It seems impossible! Indeed, it would be impossible without Christ. But through the first three sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion), we are “made partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1: 4). Thus, St. Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth: “Or know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own?”(I Corinthians 6: 19). And we know that we have been sent the Holy Ghost, “another Paraclete”, by Christ Jesus (John 14: 16). Through Christ then, God dwells within us so that it is He who worketh in us, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will (Philippians 2: 13). Were Christ not God, such a partaking of the divine nature on our part would be unimaginable and we would forever be lost.
The Christian therefore does not only look at what Christ taught by words, but also at those things He taught by action. Further, he looks at Christ Himself: His very nature. In Jesus, the divine person, the Christian sees the very ideal for his own life: he sees in Him the cause of his life, its purpose and the means by which he is enabled to fulfill this purpose (John 1: 3-4; Colossians 1: 19-20.)
A Christian is one whose life is Christ. And since it is unimaginable and even absurd to view Christ without His Cross, the Christian is thereby also necessarily tied to the Cross.
For this reason, Jesus said: “If any man will follow me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8: 34). Here we find yet another aspect crucial to the Christian faith which is also inherently linked to humility: self-denial. One may ask how denying oneself is connected to humility. To understand this, one must – again – look to Jesus for the solution to this mystery. Christ did not boast about being God, the Lord of lords and the King of kings (Revelation 17: 14), nay, He “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man” (Philippians 2: 7). Assuming man's nature, He did not insist upon the glory that is naturally and eternally His, but instead denied Himself in the world to live in the best possible exemplary manner for us. He denied Himself out of love for us, that we may be shown how one ought to live His life as a servant of the Almighty God.
Self-denial is most meaningful in times of tribulation. Christ facing death said the following:
“My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26: 39). These are the words of self-denial. One seeks not to fulfill one's own wishes, but the will of God. As Christ, the Christian too must say to God: “thy will be done” (Matthew 26: 42). With these very words, we realize that self-denial is not only linked to humility, but also to obedience. Is not self-denial then nothing other than the expression of humility and obedience? It is.
Ultimately, the Christian then is someone who puts his personal desires aside and focuses first and foremost on Christ. He takes up his cross and follows Christ. In Christ, he learns to be humble and obedient to God. In Christ, he finds the answer to the mystery of salvation. In Christ, he finds the way, and the truth, and the life.
The Christian is he who finds the purpose and meaning of life not in any theory or ideology, but rather in a person, Christ Jesus.