ON BEING A CHRISTIAN
There are many people who still claim that South Africa is a Christian country. They are up in arms whenever there is a rumour that the one or the other Christian feast day will no longer be a public holiday. Ironically, as it is with everything and any community, give them a common enemy and the members will be galvanised into unity. But South Africa a Christian country? Nominally that may be true. If we ask people for their religion, many would give Christianity. There are from time to time huge public events, which bring crowds together for prayer and these can be seen as a show of solidarity of Christians. The real test is on the ground where people live by what they profess to be. Christianity is becoming in South Africa more and more a fractured religion, which is not just a South African phenomenon. So many churches are founded, many of which have brought the name of Christianity into disrepute. Many times, they are anything but churches, demanding of members to perform weird acts or even being used as a front for money laundering and other sorts of murky activities. Established Churches with a long history behind them still have the majority of members. But they are on the wane and struggling to keep their members together. The demographic pyramid (youth and children at the bottom, older generations towards the top) is on its head – the older generations outnumber the younger ones. The voice of religion is being more and more replaced by the voice of society (morality is what is acceptable to society) and the voice of the individual (I am the master of my own destiny; no one may prescribe to me). Religion is seen as a source of interference in private life and decisions. At its best, it is accepted for its organisations engaged in works of charity. When it comes to morality, ethics, economic and social ethics, the voice of the Church is at the best of times nothing more than a murmur. And that is the reality we must face.
On ground level the real struggle for the hearts and minds of people takes place. Considering Christianity, it has its roots in the history of Judaism and the life of Jesus Christ. It brings the understanding of salvation of humankind and of the individual. It postulates woman and man as person, in other words endowed with the ability of freedom and transcendence beyond the material world. Christianity proclaims the dignity of woman and man made in God’s image and redeemed in the image of Jesus Christ. It upholds the respect for the otherness of every person and the sisterhood and brotherhood of all people regardless of colour, religion, nationality or family. Christianity with its teachings on the dignity of woman and man forms the foundation of human rights. Christianity is the religion, which sharpens our senses to be aware of injustice and combat it because the name of God in history means liberation from slavery and evil. It maintains the principle of solidarity with the poor, the sick, the abused, refugees and all persons in need. Christianity is about peace, reconciliation, justice, healing and forgiveness. In a word, to be a Christian is to have a passion for the welfare of every person, and this is based on the God of love Who freely and willingly joined us into a permanent covenant with Him through Jesus Christ His Son, in the bond of love who is the Holy Spirit. It is in the God of Jesus Christ that we have our hope that our sacrifices to make the world a better place are never in vain, until we are all united forever in eternal life. Christianity is a way of life. And total, not just limited to certain occasions or life events like baptism, marriage and death.
Can we simplify this? Yes, we can. Once the Holy Spirit touched us to accept Jesus Christ in our lives the rest is implied. However, we still have to make conscious decisions and grow in our faith. Jesus himself simplified it for us: it is to love the Lord your God, and your neighbour as yourself. In images, it is to be for others the Good Shepherd and the Good Samaritan. The Christian as a follower of Jesus, however, knows that only the encounter with Jesus will take her or him into an increasingly deeper relationship with Jesus. It requires effort, perseverance and endurance. We do whatever we can; but Jesus Christ sends us his Spirit of knowledge and understanding to experience his closeness. And that understanding will always with immediate effect bring out in us the passion to get involved in the affairs of the world and the welfare of our fellow brothers and sisters. Daily reading of Scripture, meditation and attending Holy Mass keep us fresh and strengthened in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Christian of today will be a Christian tomorrow if she or he is committed in humility and courage to Christ in a deep personal relationship, which flows over into the care of others and the environment
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
July 18 2019