Is Christianity still relevant in a world like ours?

It isn’t Christianity that’s relevant, it’s Christ-likeness, because without Christ-likeness Christianity is just another religion that’s totally irrelevant to those who are aren’t Christians, just as Buddhism is totally irrelevant to non-Buddhists.

Without Christ-likeness Christianity would more appropriately be called ‘Christianism’ and be lumped in with all the other “isms” like Hinduism, Confucianism, Sikhism, Taoism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism, all of which differ wildly in their beliefs and rituals and what happens after we die, which make them all totally irrelevant and meaningless to anyone who doesn’t agree with those beliefs. And then there are serious differences and divisions within religions too, like the vicious conflict between Sunnis and Shiites in Islam, and between Catholics and Protestants in Christianity, that totally disqualify all those involved as being relevant.

What would be relevant is everyone being Christ-like. If the whole world did what Christ taught there’d be no need for any religion in the first place, or any strange rituals, or any competing denominations, because we’d all be getting along, loving our neighbours as ourselves, treating others as we ourselves would love to be treated, and correcting ourselves rather than judging and condemning others.

And from what I’ve heard and read, most people have no trouble accepting that what Jesus taught makes sense. Well, of course it does, because if we all loved our enemies, as Jesus taught, we wouldn’t have bullies, tyrants, war, racism, conflicts between neighbours, suicidal teenagers, character assassinating gossips, an upper class despising the lower classes, and vice versa. Christ-likeness would change the world, if only we could all be Christ-like.

But therein lies the problem, because being Christ-like is next to impossible in a world where to survive financially, and not be trodden on emotionally and socially, you’ve got to be better, sharper, more clever and more ruthless than the competition. To be nice, honest, thoughtful, sensitive and truthful is asking for trouble and opening oneself up to being taken to the cleaners by salesmen, scam artists and bullies. And how can a youngster be Christ-like in school when it makes him so vulnerable to being picked on and isolated?

But this is where Christianity can be hugely relevant, by supporting and providing safe haven for those who wish to be Christ-like, so that some people, at least, get the chance to see and taste the difference Christ-likeness makes. And equipped with that knowledge they can head out into the world with courage and the desire to share and practice what they’ve learnt, making them extremely relevant in a world that is desperately seeking solutions to its problems and hasn’t cottoned on yet that Christ-likeness is the solution.

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What do Christians have that non-Christians don’t have?

Some non-Christians seem a lot more Christian than Christians. They’re nicer, kinder, happier, more giving, more sociable, more involved in the community, more even-tempered, more disciplined, and better adjusted. It’s a bit discouraging when you’re a Christian bumping into people like that, because if non-Christians can be such good people, why bother being Christian? Or, put another way, what difference does Christianity make if you can be very ‘Christian’ without it? 

Paul answers that in Romans 8:9. “You (Christians), however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” The difference between Christians and non-Christians is who is in control of their lives. What a person does, therefore, isn’t as important as who’s doing it.

So, who is doing it? Is it one’s sinful nature or the Spirit, because it can only be one or the other. All people fall into two categories: those who are controlled by the sinful nature (the law of sin and death), and those who are controlled by the Spirit (the law of the Spirit of life). And it makes a huge difference as to which of those two is in control, because “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires,” verse 5.

So, what does “the sinful nature” desire? Well, it certainly doesn’t desire God, “because the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God,” verses 7-8. That’s stating it bluntly, but clearly – that the sinful nature has no interest in God.

In contrast to that, what does “the Spirit” desire instead? Well, the Spirit isn’t hostile to God, for “you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry ‘Abba, Father,'” verse 15. The Spirit also desires that “the righteous requirements of the law be fully met in us,” verse 4, so that we can submit to God’s law. And as far as pleasing God, the Spirit “puts to death the misdeeds of the body,” verse 13, which pleases God immensely because it frees us personally “from the law of sin and death,” verse 2. In three clear ways, then, the Spirit’s desires are the absolute opposite to the desires of the sinful nature.   

So that’s what Christians have that non-Christians don’t have: They have the Holy Spirit constantly tuning their minds and hearts to God’s nature, rather than being blown all over the place by the whims and desires of the sinful nature. 

How is Christianity different to other religions?

Christianity isn’t different to other religions, in that it too, like all the major religions, has symbols, rituals, special commemorative days, named gods, and belief in an afterlife. It too erects impressive buildings, lays out strict rules for how to behave, and attempts to moderate behaviour by the promise of eternal rewards for good people and the threat of something awful for the wicked. And like all typical religions Christianity claims it too is the only true path to spirituality and eternity.

Christianity has also shared the same embarrassing faults with other religions, of divisions and conflicts within, of splinter groups breaking away to carve a purer path, of dealing extremely harshly with heretics, and even justifying the killing of other humans as a godly duty. Christians are also just as vulnerable as members of other religions to judging and condemning anyone who doesn’t agree with them. And like members of all religions, Christians also believe we must escape these horrible bodies of ours and this horrible world into some ethereal bliss that is totally out of touch with why this creation came into existence in the first place.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that many people wonder why we have religions at all, especially when religion has been the cause of so many conflicts, crusades, inquisitions, massacres, burnings, stonings, mutilations, land-grabbings, and the worship of human power and personality. And no religion, including Christianity, can be excused for its stupidity and cruelty by dragging out a list of the good things it has done, because none of the good done has erased evil completely or permanently in the world, or in any religious community either.

Would the world be better off without religion? Of course it would. No more killings in the name of one’s god, no more holier than thou attitudes, no more barbaric practices in the name of religious purity, no more chucking rocks at each other over doctrinal differences, no more fear of eternal torture, no more philosophical rubbish that offers no solution to death or evil, no more worshipping fallible human beings, no more wildly different ideas as to what happens to us after we die, no more wanting to escape this beautiful earth and our wonderful bodies for something fuzzy and meaningless for eternity, and no more self-centred play acting to get oneself saved.

But true Christianity was never about any of those things anyway. It’s about a man who said he was sent by God to give us eternal life, and came back from the dead to prove it. It was all about solving the problem of humans who die. Nothing religious about it; just raw reality.