If I were to ask any group of people today what it means to practice the Christian faith, I would probably end up with a variety of responses. Some would say that it means living a good life; others might suggest it means living according to certain ethical principles. Some would say it’s a matter of being married in church, and having your children “christened”, whilst others might indicate that it’s a matter of being involved in the church—but only as much as they feel they need. Some would believe it is doing your bit for the upkeep of the church, whilst others …. Well you get the idea. If I were to ask any group of people today what it means to be a Christian, I would end up with a variety of responses. But would any of them be right? What does it actually mean to practice the Christian faith?
Well I’m going to suggest that to find out what practicing the faith is really about, we need go no further than the example of Jesus himself. And the passage from Luke 4:38-44, gives us a cameo of what Jesus taught his disciples to practice. And there are four things in particular we should note.
Because the first thing we find is the importance Jesus places on worship (38a). Indeed Jesus was in Capernaum, and because it was the Sabbath he went into the synagogue, to worship and to participate in the religious life of the community.
The second thing that we find is the importance Jesus placed on compassion (38b-41). Because Sabbath or not, when Jesus left the synagogue he went to the home of Simon (Peter), and healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever. And remember fevers in those days were not necessarily life threatening. But Jesus healed her on the Sabbath anyway.
Then at sunset, when the Sabbath was considered to over, and the new day had begun, people came from all over the town bringing the sick and the demon possessed—all of whom Jesus healed. However, these were early days in his ministry, he didn’t want his ministry to be side-tracked, and so he told the demons not to disclose to the people who he really was.
The third thing that we find is the importance Jesus placed on private prayer—being alone with God (42). Because even in Jesus’s busy schedule he made time to be alone with his Father.
And the fourth thing that we find is that Jesus remained focussed on being obedient to God (43-44). He was keen to find out and do the things that God wanted him to do.
So, let’s get back to our original question. “What does it mean to practice the Christian faith?” Well, what we see in Jesus is none of the ideas I mentioned at the beginning. Indeed, there is no indication that what is required is simply to live a good life, or to live according to certain ethical principles—important though those aspects may be. The story doesn’t indicate that all one has to do is to be married in church, and having your children “christened”. It doesn’t illustrate the idea of being involved in the church, but only as much as the need is felt. And it doesn’t mean the need to do your bit to preserve the fabric of the building.
On the contrary, Jesus’s example shows that practicing the Christian faith, involves commitment to regular public worship, showing compassion to others, spending time alone with God, and wanting to hear and do the things he asks us to do. That’s what the practice of being a Christian is all about. And we have no better example than the one Jesus set before us to follow.
Posted: 30th August 2016
© 2016, Brian A Curtis