7 main features of Christianity
«If I speak in the tongues of mortals
and of angels, but do not have love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal».
1) Christianity is a religion of resurrection
Jesus brought in the world Good news: He died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead. And with his example He showed us that we all live in this world to be resurrected for a new life.
Original sin held people away from God; it made a barrier preventing us from approaching the Lord, to come back in the Garden of Eden to live under His wing. But Jesus redeemed our sins by his sacrifice and deleted the distance between God and man. And now we can overcome our sins, with His help of course, and each of us has an opportunity to get a new life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The truth of personal immortality is a real gift which was given by Jesus by means of long suffering and terrible death on the cross. And this truth changed the world. What purpose do atheists have? If you have a short life, about 60-80 years, and then you will go away into non-existence, what will you strive for? Most likely, for pleasures and wealth. The faithful have other goals, their terrestrial way is only beginning, a small part of the life, something like a school, which they should finish successfully to get an opportunity to live further.
2) Christianity is a religion of humanism
Christianity brought into the world new moral principles. In the pre-Christian epoch people lived in a world of slavery, hatred, misunderstanding and separation. And Jesus founded the basis of Christian morality which admits that all people are equal in rights regardless of their nationality, social status, belief or some other characteristic.
Nowadays it is obvious that everybody has right to live, to be happy, to love, to have his own opinion and to choose his own course of life. Remember, Christianity came from Judaism where God had a peculiar people to love and care. All others considered to be unworthy even to sit at the one table with Jews. And in our time? Of course, there are still people who advocate enmity and hatred, but it is not only unpopular but also illegal in most countries of the world.
3) Christianity is a religion of suffering
In contrast to Buddhism, the main goal of which is to cease suffering, Christianity, on the contrary, calls to love your sufferings. Jesus saved us by sufferings and so He showed us the way to follow. The Christian purpose is to live as Jesus, i.e. we should accept the cross of our sufferings and carry it with all humility. Justly Russians have a saying: «Jesus suffered and us ordered!»
«And whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me».
(Matthew, ch.10, 38)In the Catholic tradition this idea is very popular due to the book «The Imitation of Christ» written by Thomas à Kempis («De imitatione Christi»). A lot of monks in different orders try to live a life very close to Jesus life. The belief that sufferings can please God caused the appearance of Christian asceticism: starvation, self-flagellation, chains bearing, long silence, anchorite life, extreme poverty and other methods of «mortification of the flesh». And it is not just a remnant of the past, nowadays there are a lot of Catholic orders where you can find a live Christian asceticism which is accepted as method of the spiritual development.
4) Christianity is a religion of abstinence
Jesus had neither family nor children. And if we want to live like He, we should also live in continence. We can easily hear this appeal in the letters of Paul the Apostle:
«I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short;
from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none».
(1 Corinthians, ch.7, 29)«I want you to be free from anxieties.
The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord;
but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife».
(1 Corinthians, ch.7, 32-33)And this appeal of Apostle Paul was heard. In the Catholic Church all the priests give a vow of celibacy. In the Orthodox Church there are white clergy (married priests) and black clergy (monks which give the vow of celibacy). And only monks can hold a high position in the Church. So the Church confirms that the life of celibacy can please the Lord.
5) Christianity is a religion of poverty
When Jesus preached the Gospel, He had no property. And if we want to follow Him in all, we should also give up property. In the Gospel we can find a lot of passages where Jesus speaks about the benefits of poverty:
«Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle
(Luke, ch.18, 25)«Jesus said to him,
‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor,
(Matthew, ch.19, 21)Saint Francis of Assisi, listening to the Gospel in the Church, understood it like a personal appeal to live in perfect poverty and so to preach the Gospel. He founded the Franciscan Order which now has a plenty of monasteries all over the world where brothers live in poverty and consider poverty to be the highest virtue.
A popular saying teaches: «Poverty is not vice». But many Christians go ahead and believe poverty to be virtue. Remember, in all monastic orders brothers give the vow of poverty. Why? Because they believe that the life in poverty makes them closer to Christ.
6) Christianity is a religion of love
Jesus called us to love everybody. He replaced the Old Testament principle: «Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth», – which called to revenge and so gave rise to hatred and violence – with totally new principle of «non-resistance to evil by violence»:
«But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you».
(Matthew, ch.5, 44)The desire to be like Christ changed Christians. They help weak, sick and old people and respect other's opinions and beliefs. And not only!
I think that the main achievement of Jesus was His different approach to mutual relations between God and people. Old Testament God punishes cruelly people for disobedience. Remember the parable about Adam’s exile from paradise or story about Sodom and Gomorrah. God destroyed these two cities by «brimstone and fire» for the sins of their inhabitants. And what about poor Job? He was «a blessed man who lived righteously», but nevertheless God put him on terrible trial (The Book of Job).
In New Testament we see another God: He is kind, loving, understanding and ready to forgive almost all our sins if we truly repent. It is a new level of mutual relations: instead of obedience under the threat of punishment Jesus offered us to make a free choice of the right way.
7) Christianity is a religion of self-sacrifice
In the Gospel there is no direct appeal to sacrifice a life, but Jesus did it, and so He showed us the right way. Many Christians try to imitate Christ in some of his features but it is very difficult to go along this way up to the end and devote all our life to His service.
Everybody says that Christianity first of all is love.
But is not self-sacrifice the top of true love?
«No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends».
(John, ch.15, 13)Indeed it is hard to accept this truth. Even if we hear this appeal of Jesus, it is really difficult for us to decide to follow it.
However more and more often in different pieces of art we see the idea that God probably wants us to be heroes who are ready every minute to sacrifice their life. And it is very likely that self-sacrifice is the best way to the Kingdom of Heaven.
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