Why are you a Christian?

 Large Question MarkA few weeks ago, we had a group of Christians in our apartment who are involved in different churches with different background stories. We spent time simply sharing our testimonies, then one followed up by asking everyone why they are a Christian. We got an interesting range of answers:

The Power of Grace

One was clearly of the more evangelical variety. His answer was that he knows he needs grace to be saved. We all know instinctively we are not perfect. The concept of grace at the centre of Christianity is huge and unique. We aren’t ignoring our imperfections, but our acceptance is not based on being the right kind of person or going to the right church or following the right ethical guidelines. We just are accepted. Always. That’s powerful.

The Ethicist

One answer was a very practical answer that was based in the belief that faith in Jesus makes her a better person. This is always hard to tease out, of course; to what degree are loving actions your natural disposition vs your upbringing vs Jesus in your life? I don’t think it does much good to try to pick apart what actions are in what categories. The point here is that she could recognize that following Jesus led her into making decisions on small or large scales that made the life of others around her better.

The Apologist

One, not coincidentally a philosophy student, started with more philosophical/logical reasons for why he thinks Christianity makes the most sense of the world. I can’t even remember exactly what arguments he used, but they were among the usual most popular ones. I am not somebody who says that we can absolutely prove God’s existence or Jesus’ divinity through logic alone. I do, however, believe that we have lots of good reason to believe that this makes more sense of the world than any other option.

The Jesus Addict

One expressed that it came down to it, he simply couldn’t shake the person of Jesus. It probably isn’t a surprise that this was my answer. I probably spent some time in the Saved-by-Grace camp as the default evangelical answer, then some time in the Apologist camp, but being a Christian really started to mean something to me simply by reading all of the Gospels one summer. I felt like I saw Jesus for the first time in full force: his unprecedented teachings, his care for everyone around him, his willingness to confront oppression in creative nonviolent ways, and his ultimate sacrifice on the cross, followed by conquering death with new life.  Whoa. That’s a guy I want to follow. We can pad out lots of other things from there with debates about his divinity and the moral impact and the shocking nature of grace, but the starting point for me shifted to simply wanting to follow this guy.

The Mystic

We didn’t actually have this one present, but it’s the other common one I’ve heard to this question. For this person, they are a Christian primarily because they have felt God in their lives in some way. Maybe it is a more quiet mystical way or maybe a dramatic charismatic way (or both). Denying those experiences for them would be like denying your wedding day – it’s not just a logical event that you dispassionately remember; it was a big turning point that you still feel the impact of everyday.

Are any better than others? I don’t think so. All of those pieces are valuable, but speak to us in different ways. Some of us are drawn more to the logic, some more to the experience, some to the person, some more to the concepts, and some more to the life changes. And many of us will spend some parts of our lives in more than one of these groups. I guess that’s just one more reason why I’m drawn to Jesus: he has ways of reaching us no matter what our personality profile or context we need him to reach us through.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.