“Christianity and the Christian Faith: Love, Grace, and a Voluntary Decision,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
Christianity, over the centuries, has had many interpreters and interpretations at different times by different Christian communions. At one point, less so today, for the Roman Catholic the church required weekly mass attendance; confession observance; fasting during Lent; and fish on Fridays. For many conservative Protestant churches and perhaps what might be called fundamentalist communions, such as the Southern Baptists, bible reading and adhering to scripture was the norm and the requirement. For liberal protestant churches, such as, for example, the United Church of Christ, the emphasis was on the social gospel or, better put, a concern for the poor and those in poverty and victims of race, national origin, and sex discrimination.
These are, one might say, differing emphases by differing churches and Christian communions that are all valid but different emphases and interpretations of what Christ taught. Or one can say they are differing ways and paths to follow Christ through our lives to ultimate eternal life in heaven with the saints.
In this essay, I would like to analyze and explain, if I can, the two essential aspects of the Christian faith. They are, first, that our faith is not a faith of law and legalisms, and second, that Christianity is based on love. Jesus requires no special dress; imposes no particular observances or things we must do. He does not require church attendance, or our going to communion. He asks if we can to partake of his grace and love. In short, Christianity is a faith without law and without imposition on our humanity but is love and grace based and most important is our voluntary decision to follow Christ. Jesus forces nothing on us and does not force himself on us but ask us to follow him; for example, he asked the fisherman on the boats on the sea of Galilee to go and follow him and leave behind their fishing nets.
Now let us take a walk through scripture to see what the bible has to say about what I have just spoken of. Matthew 4:17-25 speaks of the call of the fishermen to be disciples; Peter and Andrew, and James and John. The request and the response is of a decisional and voluntary character. In Matthew 19:16-22, Jesus informs the rich young man if he would be perfect to sell his possessions and give to the poor. Jesus here recommends and requires this great act of sacrifice and love. In Matthew 5:12, Jesus says the poor in spirit, meek, merciful, and others are blessed with love. In Matthew 6:14, Jesus tells us to forgive which is to love. In Matthew 9:9, Matthew the tax collector, a hated agent of the Roman authorities, is called and follows a personal and voluntary decision and action. In Matthew 14:13, we are told Jesus is followed and as he went shore there was great throng. Again the voluntary decision to follow the Son of God. In Mark 1:33, the whole city is gathered before him. In Mark 2:15, many tax collectors were sitting with Jesus and many followed him. In Mark 6:34, we are told as Jesus went ashore there was great throng. See also Mark 8:1 (a great crowd) and Mark 8:34 (multitude). See also Mark 9:33-37 (being like child and receiving children) and Mark 10:13 (children). In Luke 3:10, Jesus advises the multitude to share their cloak with him who has none and do the same with food recommendations of love and charity. In Luke 6:17-20, Jesus speaks to a great multitude and does many healings. He speaks to those who follow him of their own accord and gives them love. In Luke 6:27, he tells us to love our enemies and turn our cheek to one who strikes us on the cheek, an advisement of love and grace beyond belief and beyond most of us. See also Luke 9:10 (crowd); Luke12:1 (crowd); Luke 14:25 (crowd); Luke 23:48 (crowd); and John 3:16, the ultimate statement of God’s love for the world in giving and sacrificing his only son. See also John 8:1-11(woman caught in adultery saved from stoning and her sins forgiven); John 15:12 (love one another as I have loved you and no man has greater love than he lay down his life for his friends). There are many statements of the love of god in first John, chapters 3,4, and 5, and also in Romans chapters 2, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, l4, and l5. See also on the love of God I Peter 1, 2 and 3; Hebrews 13:1; I Timothy 1 and 4; II Timothy chapters 1,2, and 3; II Thessalonians chapter 1; Philippians chapter 1 and 2; Colossians chapters 1 and 3; I Thessalonians chapters 2, 3, and 4; Ephesians chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; I Corinthians 13 and14; I Corinthians chapters 5 and 8; and Galatians chapter5 ; and Philemon chapter 1.
These references all display the ultimate love of god for humanity which is the basis and essence of the Christian faith and thought system, namely that God’s nature is that of love and that our response, if any, is a voluntary response to his love and that Christ’s not a robotic response to the offer of his love and salvation but a response based and founded on our free will. In short, Christ wishes a relationship based on reciprocal love a free decision on our part not forced. No man or woman who is abused or raped can love their abuser or rapist but love of any must come from a voluntary act and decision.
In short, I take the view that the nub and basis of the Christian faith
is that it is love based and is a voluntary system based on free will and our response in love to God’s love in Christ. Nothing is forced and nothing is based on law and legalism.
I welcome hearing from all.