What is the Point of Christianity?

Mother Teresa

It may sound a little strange for a Christian minister to be asking such a question, but I have indeed begun to ask myself this question over the last few months.

I know there have always been bad apples in the bunch, and maybe it is due to the rise of social media the last few years, but I am disgusted by the way many “Christian” leaders are acting and doing it all in the name of Christ. So I am seriously asking, what is the point of Christianity?

In an essay appearing on the Sojourners website from October of 2016, Stephen Mattson asks the same question but with a different spin, have we forgotten the point of Christianity? In the essay, and I highly recommend you read it, Mattson asks questions about what the point is given several examples.

What’s the point of Christianity if during a historical refugee crisis, Christians refuse to protect, accept, and help refugees?

What’s the point of Christianity if believers actively oppose immigrants from pursuing a better life, and promote humans beings that are created in the image of God to be detained, separated from their families, arrested, and sent back to impoverished and violent conditions?

What’s the point of Christianity if people who worship the Prince of Peace also vigorously support policies that vilify entire people groups, actively seek death, and kill tens of thousands of people each year?

What’s the point of Christianity if people who pray to the King of Kings also seek wealth and privilege at the expense of the oppressed through corrupt systems that maintain and promote systemic financial, educational, and racial injustice?

What’s the point of Christianity if people who worship a Jewish Messiah from the Middle East also discriminate and legislate against people who have different religious, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds?

What’s the point of Christianity if Christians — who celebrate a man who was crucified on a cross by an authoritarian government partly for being an ethnic minority — refuse to stand up and defend the rights of those facing persecution because of their skin color, ethnic background, gender, or political beliefs?

For me it comes down to how we treat others, especially those “least” that Jesus mentions in Mathew 25:

“for I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger, and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'” Matthew 25:35-40

Maria Skobtsova, also known as Mother Maria of Paris, was a Russian refugee that fled to Paris, France in 1923 as the Russian Revolution raged on.  Maria became a nun in the Russian Orthodox church and spent the rest of her days until she was murdered in a concentration camp in March of 1945. She had been arrested by the Gestapo and sent to prison. Her crime, issuing baptismal certificates to Jews to help keep them alive.  Mother Maria, canonized a saint in 2004 by the Russian Orthodox Church, believed in the Gospel command to care for those less fortunate and that as a Christian she had an obligation to obey this command, even if it meant sacrificing her life. This is what she said about the point of Christianity.

The way to God lies through love of people. At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked whether I was successful in my ascetic exercises, nor how many bows and prostrations I made. Instead, I shall be asked did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners. That is all I shall be asked. About every poor, hungry and imprisoned person the Savior says ‘I’: ‘I was hungry and thirsty, I was sick and in prison.’ To think that he puts an equal sign between himself and anyone in need. . . . I always knew it, but now it has somehow penetrated to my sinews. It fills me with awe.

I do not see this kind of commitment or sentiment from many people today and surely not from many in the Evangelical world who claim that Donald Trump has been “raised by God” (Paula White, Religion News Service, August 2017.) I do believe that God raises people up, but he raises people up to build other people up not to break them down, not to put them down, and not to keep them down.  We are called not to build walls but to build bridges, that is the point of Christianity not this thirst and quest for power, Jesus never wielded any power except that to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, and give hope to the hopeless.