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Kindness Korner

I. What is Christianity About?--A Lenten Reflection


A Lenten Essay about The Nature of Christianity

The well-known TV personality and Interviewer Barbara Walters remarked about Christianity in this way. She said, that after all her conversations with Pastors, Evangelists, and other noteworthy Christians, she has concluded that Christianity is about going to heaven, and avoiding going to hell.

It is not surprising that she has come to that conclusion. A majority of active Christians share that view and see their faith in that way. In most Sunday worship services that is what the stress is on--sin, and avoiding punishment, heaven.

Is this what Christianity is mostly about? Is that the impression we want the Barbara Walters of the world to have-that Christianity is mostly about going to heaven and staying out of hell?

Certainly Jesus death on the cross is the enormously dominant theme of Christianity. "Jesus died for the world." Definitely John 3:16 stands high above other verses in crying to the world to enjoy the gift of salvation: "God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life."

There is the key to salvation, embracing that incredible truth. But salvation is a lot more than gaining the key to heaven. The fact that Barbara Walters bottom-line impression of what Christianity is about is the heaven-hell question is a sad revelation.

We must re-learn what Jesus had in mind when he came into this world. He did a lot of teaching, he performed miracles, he died on the cross, and then was raised from the grave. Think about the very earliest announcement about Jesus, the angels words to Joseph The Carpenter-“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife….She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

The Jewish Joseph could not have had a clue what this meant-“He will save his people from their sins.” His life was still immersed in the religious practices of the Israelites. Sacrifices, rituals, altars, sheep, oxen, goats and doves and strict rules impacted every day of their lives and all they did. It was all about paying for and preventing sin.

These verses illustrate the context in which Joseph and Mary lived: Leviticus 4:32 "If the offering you bring as a sin offering is a sheep, you shall bring a female without blemish. You shall lay your hand on the head of the sin offering ; and it shall be slaughtered as a sin offering at the spot where the burnt offering is slaughtered. The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. You shall remove all its fat… and the priest shall turn it into smoke on the altar, with the offerings by fire to the Lord. Thus the priest shall make atonement on your behalf for the sin that you have committed, and you shall be forgiven”

How could Joseph the Carpenter have a clue about what Jesus significance was to be, living as he was in that context of sacrifices for forgiveness. Even if he shared the conventional longing for the Messiah, no Jew expected the Messiah would die like ordinary people.

My next Lenten reflection will jump from Joseph to Jesus on the cross and his words “It is Finished”.

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