What is the Christian Life?
Many people claim to be a Christian or to live according to Christian values, but only occasionally come to church. For such people, they are aspiring towards living the Christian-Life, but haven’t quite got there yet. That is because Christianity is about more than just being good, it is about wanting to live in proper connection with the source of all goodness – God. As we move through the journey of life, many things may draw us into greater awareness of God’s presence – a belief that death cannot be the end, the loss of a loved one, a sequence of events in our lives that have been challenging, the arrival of a new life in the family, an awareness of the immense magnitude of blessing one encounters in the natural world. But once we begin to become more aware of God, we cannot leave it there. If that awareness is to grow and transform us into a more rounded and peaceful person, we need to encounter God in our lives more fully; we need to begin living the Christian-Life.
There are traditionally four aspects to the Christian Life:
- Prayer, worship, devotion
- Study and thinking
- Work and serving the community
- Rest, relaxation and recreation
1. Prayer, worship and devotion
Engaging in the Church’s liturgy is one of the most important elements of the Christian life, because it is when individuals come together into community in order to encounter Jesus through the tradition and teachings of the Church; to think about Christ’s goodness and how it calls us to change so that we may live more in tune with that goodness. We come together to give thanks to God for his many blessings, even life itself, and we also come together to become more in tune with Christ’s presence. A person cannot encounter Jesus properly on their own. As we follow the cycles of the Church’s year together, so we experience the full repertoire of God’s engagement with the world through his son, Jesus Christ. That is why attending church regularly, ideally every week, is so important.
This is not always easy, especially in a society that encourages us to be so busy, to nurture other obsessions and distractions. But being a Christian calls us to place church high up our agenda. Of course there are many things we could be doing instead, but to truly live the Christian life means uniting with other Christians regularly in prayer and devotion in order to experience God and focus on him, especially in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, we encounter Christ most intimately as he gives himself to us in the gifts of bread and wine and we share in it as one community. This is central to our growth and self-understanding. Being a Christian is not always easy – it is a life-long journey. But it is in perseverance that we move closer to God and overtime become more open to allowing him to guide us, walk alongside us, and ultimately bring us into his eternal life.
2. Study and thinking
In order that we may begin to know God better and feel more comfortable in his presence, it is important that we engage in some kind of study and reflection. Our God is mysterious and compassionate. He offers us endless mercies in the struggles of life, but we have to learn to recognise them and see them as coming from his hands. God reveals himself through every avenue of experience. Reading the Bible and what other Church thinkers have to offer is important too. Study and reflection is central to the Christian life as we look to move closer to God by knowing him better.
3. Work and serving the community
Living the Christian life also means putting into practice what we have learned about the way God, in Jesus Christ, wishes us to live. This calls us to make the world a better place, one little act at a time. Because it is the Church that draws more people into knowing God and living in his goodness, our first responsibility is to serve the church and help build it up. Then we have a duty to serve the wider community in ways that reveal God’s goodness. We can do this by supporting charities, engaging in church outreach or simply offering support to overcome need, wherever we find it. Money forms a part of this service, but as Christians we should not only share our wealth, but also our time and talents. Our work places should be included in this area of the Christian life. What we do for employment and the way that we do it are important for our own integrity and can transform the lives of others around us.
4. Rest, relaxation and recreation
God gave us a Sabbath so that we might rest. This is supposed to be a day of relaxation and prayer. Unfortunately, our ever busy world has stripped many of us of the ability to properly rest on a Sunday. Nonetheless, rest, relaxation and recreation remain central facets to the Christian life and we must work at making space to do the things we love. These must, of course, remain in balance with the other aspects of our Christian life, but we can do all things for the love of God and God gives us the ability to rest, relax and enjoy recreation in order that we might recharge our batteries and stimulate our bodies.