What does it mean to be a Christian? This was a question asked of me by a non-religious, but very spiritual young woman. “That’s a good question,” I said. This was my response as I thought about what I was going to say. Then it came to me, I heard a 6-year-old answer this question with clarity and insight. So I quoted her: “It means you love God, love Jesus and love everyone else!”
The woman was stunned. “But you’re a pastor, can’t you come up with something deeper, more profound and more thoughtful?” I didn’t even have to think about my answer: “Why?” Yes, there was more discussion between the two of us. She pressed me with, “How do we love God? How do we love Jesus? How do we love everyone else?”
I pulled the Jesus response card. “How do you think we should love God, Jesus and everyone else?” I will say that this response to a question with a question many times makes short work of the conversation. But two hours later we came to an understanding.
How do we love God? The Christian, Jewish and Muslim Faiths all offer many ways to love God, often times they sound the same. How do we love Jesus? Well, our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sister are not as helpful there, but fortunately we have been given a wonderful book called the Bible. You will find a lot of ways to show our love for Jesus, many times they overlap with how we love God. How do we love everyone else? Again, the Bible is extremely helpful here. If you want to narrow your search down, just look to Jesus, what he says and does. You will find a lot of overlap with answers to the first two questions as well.
The woman felt better after our conversation, but she was still a bit uncertain. “Why does the church make it so hard to understand? Why can’t they just say it like the child said (point of clarification here, I told her later in our discussion that I used the child’s answer) and help us to live that way?” she asked.
The answers to the, what it means questions, are much easier said than done. Those pesky “WHY” questions that two year olds seem to have mastered to infinity and beyond are tough. When, where, and who questions are not so easy to answer either, and sometimes you just have to go on (here it comes) faith.
As a Christian of the Lutheran Tradition who happens to be a pastor, I will tell you straight out I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I have some serious questions myself. What I have learned in my 61 years of life and 31 years of those as a pastor is that it is ok to question. In fact, a questioning faith is often more alive and vital that an unquestioning certain faith. True believers who have no questions or doubts, strike me as either pompous or naïve.
To love, means you believe. To believe means you have trust. To have trust means you have faith. It is faith in God’s love for us, in Jesus, that will help us find answers to those questions of life.