A Person-Centered Faith
Clarity is about understanding the nature of Christian faith, both the basic tenets of faith and our experience of it. Clarity is crucial to authentic evangelism because how we understand the nature of Christian faith will greatly impact how we go about sharing. Regardless of our culture, if we are not clear about the basics of faith, we will be unable to share it authentically. This is especially true in environments where we are surrounded by people who believe differently than we do.
A simple definition of Christian faith is helpful in gaining clarity. At its most basic level, Christian faith is a centered, personal, relational response involving trust and obedience. Certainly much more can be said about Christian faith; but this straightforward understanding provides not only a clear outline of the tenets of the faith, but a lens through which we can view our individual experience of it.
Christian faith is centered. That means it has a specific object. The Scripture passages at the beginning of this session point to that object: Jesus Christ. Christian faith is centered on the living God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth whom we call the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
We might take this truth for granted, yet it is profoundly important. Christian faith is not faith in general. It is not a generic type of spirituality. When we speak of Christian faith, we are not speaking of a philosophy of life we can speculate about or a system of ethical ideals to be debated or a set of doctrinal propositions with which we choose to mentally agree. When we speak of Christian faith, we are speaking about a very particular faith – faith in Jesus Christ.
Christian faith is centered, and it is also personal. It is personal because it is centered on a person, a real human being situated in a real culture at a real time in history. That Jesus was a real person reminds us that Christian faith is grounded in the physical world that God created. Though mystery abounds, Christian faith is not about a faraway heaven separate from the amazing universe which God has created for us to inhabit. Christian faith is about God becoming human in Jesus, entering the physical universe, to restore it fully and completely.
Christian faith is personal because it is centered on a real person, Jesus Christ, but it is also personal because it requires a personal commitment from each human being. We can pray that another person might have faith. We can do our best to create an environment where faith is taught and caught. But we cannot have faith for another person any more than they can have faith for us. Christian faith is so decidedly personal, it demands that each must own that faith for him or herself.