Why Be A Christian? What Difference, if Any, Does it Make?


Why should anyone be a Christian? What difference, if any, does it make whether you’re a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, or of some other faith? Aren’t all faiths the same? Isn’t there just one God? And aren’t we judged ultimately on how sincerely we take our own chosen path or what a good life we’ve led?

These aren’t just academic questions. They matter more than any other questions we’ll ever ask in our entire lives. If we consult what Jesus said about it, we’ll discover that it’s the central question of all life for all time. Going back to his encounter with Nicodemus, Jesus claimed that unless some fundamental, God-created transaction takes place in the core of our being, we’ll be eternally shut out from the only kingdom that counts (Jn. 3:3).

Being a Christian means far more than what label I put on myself (or others). If “being a Christian” means little more than “being nice,” “doing good deeds” (however one may define those), or what organization I’m part of, or belief system I identify with, then these questions are really some of the most trivial of all questions.

Sadly, this is what most people think it really means to be a Christian.

When over 2,000 persons boarded the Titanic in the month of April 1912, they sincerely believed they would end up in New York. They could have taken a routine voyage on just about any steamer across the Atlantic but with this great new highly acclaimed ship, they had every reason to believe that they would cross the Atlantic in the greatest safety and comfort. It looked like a sure thing. But as sure of this as they were, most of them were plunged into a very deep and dark abyss.

In life, it really does matter what ship we board, just as it really matters what faith we follow. Jesus’ message to us is that if we try to make it to the “other side” by whatever means we imagine is best, we’ll never get there. This message is not the concoction of the church to get more members on its rolls. Rather, it’s the straightforward statement of the only one in human history who knew the right answer, the divine Son of God who came from the “other side” to take us with him to our intended destination. And he demonstrated his authority to make such claims by his resurrection from the dead. There is no other way to God except through him. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Being a Christian means that Jesus dwells in us and therefore equips us by putting “eternal life” in us. This new quality of life begins now and never ends, sustaining us and making us fruitful all through this life, enabling us to fulfill God’s purpose, and causes his gift of joy to be the characteristic mark of our lives (Jn. 15:1-11).

All this brings us in the end to full humanity, God’s plan from the beginning (1 Cor. 15:46-49). So it’s Jesus who is both the only way to God as well as the only way to our full humanity. Without him we don’t get there.

So why be a Christian?

Because unless Jesus’ Spirit dwells inside us and performs this very specific transformation, unless he puts his stamp of approval upon us, and empowers us to get to where we want to go—in other words, unless he personally outfits us for the journey—then our fate will be as decisive as those who boarded the wrong ship to New York.

Even though the church doesn’t talk much about it anymore (except those few Christians who seem to talk of little else), there really are only two destinies, and only one way to the right one. Life or death, paradise or destruction, light or darkness—or any other way it could be put. Since Jesus’ kingdom will be the last one left standing, either we’ll be part of his kingdom or we won’t be part of anything at all.

Jesus comes to tell us that everything that needs to be done to get us home has been done. He’s completed the work, paid the ticket, paved the way, and announced it widely. His invitation is simply this: let all who are thirsty come and drink from the water of life given away freely (Rev. 22:17). When we do this, not only will our soul’s thirst be satisfied, but we will discover that our lives on this earth are filled with a new sense of purpose and joy. We trade our despair and hopelessness for joy and peace. Christ’s Spirit put within us won’t allow us to remain in the grip and depths of despair, because the essence of the Spirit’s presence is joy, not sorrow. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is a lightheartedness that can’t be explained, kept down, or shunned for long.

This is the good news that we can share with a world that is weighed down by negativity. It’s a light of hope we can shine in a sea of hopelessness—in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven, rescued, restored, and redeemed. This is true for all those whom God calls according to his purpose.

Questions to Consider:

Why do you think our sincerity carries no weight with God when it comes to our eternal destiny?

Does the idea that there is just one way to God, salvation, and full humanity challenge or bother you? And if so, why do you think that is?

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John I. Snyder
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