What does Jesus have to do with Christianity?
Tomorrow begins TODAY - Dr. Harold J. Sala () - December 22, 2002 - 12:00am
"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!’ – John 1:29

"Do I have to believe in Jesus to be a Christian?" asked a young man whose Russian Jewish background had never exposed him to the Gospel. Having been raised in a home in the former Soviet Union where God was seldom discussed, he had heard about Jesus but didn’t really know how He fit into Christianity.

"Are you a Christian?" I once asked a man. He thought for a moment and then replied, "Well, I suppose so since I’m not a Muslim or a Jew." For millions of people around the world, the term broadly defines ethnic and, to a degree, religious roots. We think of countries such as the Philippines in Asia, the United States in the Americas and Northern Ireland in Europe as "Christian" nations. But painting nations with such a broad, sweeping brush is a generalization which allows a lot of space between the brush marks.

"What does Jesus Christ have to do with Christianity?" Would it be more valid to turn the question around and ask, "What does Christianity have to do with Jesus Christ?"

Do you remember where the term "Christian" or "Christians" was first used? In Jesus’ day, those who followed Him were never identified as Christians. Disciples? Yes–Peter, Andrew, James and John would have been quite proud to be identified as disciples of Jesus. All great leaders had followers who were known as disciples. But ethnically, Jesus’ followers were Jews and proud of their heritage. It was about 15 years after the church was established when disciples began to be called Christians. The term was one of derision and scorn.

One of the reasons why Christianity should never be used to define a religion is because it really involves a relationship, not a lifestyle or a system of beliefs. The creed of the Early Church stressed who Jesus was and what He did–not what people must say or believe to belong to a church.

When the young man asked, "Do I have to believe in Jesus to be a Christian?" and he got the answer, "Yes. That’s what it is all about," he responded, "I’m not yet ready." Yet he got involved in a Bible study and began to read the New Testament seriously.

A few weeks later, he confessed Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. Today, he not only attends church regularly, but sings in the choir and actively shares his faith with others.

The visible proof of being disciples, taught Jesus, does not lie in your belief system–though what you believe determines what you do. It first involves your relationship with Jesus Christ, then with others. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples," said Jesus, "if you love one another" (John 13:34).

Resource Reading: John 15

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