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Question 50:

Why should I become a Christian? What good would it do me and how can Christianity guarantee me an afterlife? The Muslims don’t think highly of Christians, much like the Christians feel about the Jews: how can I find the right religion? One religion makes the other sound like a fairy tale, how can you prove the truth? What is the proof? A Creator does indeed exist, but which of the religions is right?

 

Answer:
First, the text of the book and the answer to the previous questions should have shown that the Christian faith claims to be the true faith on the one hand, but it does not follow that it is therefore justified to take the stance that other faiths, such as the Jewish or Muslim faiths are completely false or worthless. The Questioner ought to carefully read the introductory text to the Theme “Religious Pluralism” and to the Theme “Mohammad – Prophet?” as well as the answer to question 42 with this statement in mind.

So, why should someone become a Christian? Because, as every convinced Christian will tell you, being a Christian means meeting and following Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life (see John 14:6) and because the Christian faith satisfies what the truly seeking person is looking for in life. What does it bring a person to become a Christian? It brings Jesus Christ, the Son of God into his life, allows him to follow Him and to join the people of the Church who believe in Him. It brings him such lasting joy and fulfillment here on earth as only the true God can grant.

Christians, along with the Christian Church believe that God, our merciful creator and Lord revealed Himself through his Son Jesus and therewith also revealed the Truth. It is therefore absolutely crucial to get to know Jesus, the person and what he claims, and honestly to make yourself available to confront Him face-to-face. To the things already mentioned in the introductory text to the Theme “The Divitniy of Jesus”, we would like to add an extract from chapter 2 the book written by the theologian Otto Herrmann Pesch, “Kleines Glaubensbuch” (Topos Taschenbuch 29):

The Son of Man

…If you want to understand what believing in Jesus Christ, the Son of God means, you first need to have a look at His life on earth. He lived as a normal person of His time… He was a person through and through and a good person at that. But what about Him was so special above and beyond that?

First of all, He brought with Him a very exciting message, much more wonderful than those of all the greatest prophets before him. He proclaimed: the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15). That means: God is close to all people – all people. Everyone should know and trust that God is a God for the people. An uncertainty as to how God reacts towards man no longer exists. Jesus derives some downright adventurous consequences out of this message for man’s life. We should not be afraid – neither fear God nor man. And we should no longer be worried about our lives – meaning this deep worry that is always fuelled by the deep-down fear that everything could ultimately be in vain and superfluous. Even guilt and failure are no obstacle for God to show us His love. People should know that they can walk towards perfect, unthinkable joy – and they should live so that others can see this in them

Because God loves all people, differences certainly remain, but there are no longer any barriers between people, neither those of status nor those of knowledge, talent, or virtue. Even those laden with guilt are accepted – for no one is without guilt. Justice, reconciliation, and love should govern the way in life and heal us, because that is the result of Gods reconciliation with sinful mankind.

More than all the Prophets

Jesus lived the message that he preached. He gathered His disciples and made them His partners in spreading His message, and he chose the kind of people no teacher of the law who was concerned with his reputation would have chosen: fishermen, simple, despised people from the villages and the countryside. He chose to dine with those who were considered outcasts: with women of ill repute, men of dubious careers (tax collectors) – and He advised the others to do likewise. He turned the normal standards of his society on their heads, where they discriminated against the poor: for example, the sick who also were to be helped on the Sabbath. He went into the temple and denounced the whole system of Jewish piety, as it was at the time, and declared it to be contrary to what God wanted. Gods favor cannot be bought. People should believe that God loves them just as they are and not for their good deeds.

The great prophets also said this, but they stayed within their own parameters. In the same way, many of Jesus' contemporaries initially thought of Jesus as a new, powerful prophet. But there is a difference… Jesus claimed to be more than all the prophets and teachers before him. A teacher says: Moses said… a prophet says: the Lord said… But Jesus said without any comparison or calling on any higher power: truly, I tell you.

And further: whether one comes into Gods divinity which Jesus proclaimed, or the Kingdom of God as it is often called, depends on how that person sees Jesus. This becomes especially apparent in the sermons Jesus gave in his home town of Nazareth (Luke 4:14-30). Here Jesus explains: I am He in whom the promises of the prophets have come true. The listeners didn’t believe Him – and in Jesus’s eyes it was plain and simple disbelief that prevented him from performing powerful works in Nazareth, as well as in other cities. Only those who followed Jesus – at least believed in Him, not seldom also followed him in the literal sense, namely took part in His traveling – experienced Gods closeness.

And finally: When Jesus spoke of God, the Father, He never included Himself and His listeners in a unifying Our Father, rather, He made the difference between Your Father and My Father. Everyone is a child of God, but only He alone is the Son.

The Son of God

The near-by listeners of Jesus sermon understood already: we are either to accept this unbelievable claim and involving ourselves with Him and with what He says, or He is an incredible blasphemer and imposter. Those who didn’t want to believe Him, behaved consistently by arresting Him and bringing Him before the people as a blasphemer, and before the Roman military courts as a troublemaker and crucifying Him. Nothing happened as they taunted Him on the cross: He saved others; He cant save Himself (Mark 15:31).

We know how the story continued: the complete desperation of His disciples, who had given up all hope (Luke 24:21), was only short-lasted. He appeared to them alive, resurrected from the dead. And then those who came to faith when they heard it from them, thought about how they were to explain what to make of Jesus. And they called Him the Son of God and praised him as the Son of God. Certainly that what is meant can also be expressed in other ways, especially nowadays. But this name in particular was exactly appropriate for the expression of faith and for the proclamation of the faith and it still is so today.

Firstly: Jesus Himself told his listeners that such a name would be the right one. There are many places in the Gospels where we read that Jesus calls Himself the Son of God or where others ask themselves or him whether He is the Son of God (i.e. Matthew 16:16, Mark 14:61, Luke 1:32). And when He emphasizes that God is His father, how could it be wrong to call Him God’s Son?

Further: at the sound of this name, the Jews as well as the heathens listened, this meant at the time: the people of Greek and Roman culture. The Jews envisioned a secret and wonderful king when they heard His name, the one the prophets claimed was coming to save them, as God was to remove all evil from the world and make everything good. The Greeks were reminded of their myths which often speak of sons of gods and about gods who took on human form on the earth. Naturally, Jesus didn’t fit in to neither the Jewish idea of a son of God nor the Greek, both ideas needed to be adjusted. But one thing was immediately clear to everybody when Jesus was called the son of God: Jesus was something very special, He is more than more than man. It was even a huge challenge to apply this name to Jesus, because the Christian faith erases the Jews’ and the Romans’ dazzling or extraordinary images of the son of God. God’s Son, the Christians said, is no one other than this controversial, ridiculed, pursued, and crucified Jesus. No wonder that the authorities didn’t want put up with this.

Something similar happens when Jesus is called Lord. This same word usually referred to a lord and master and is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which pre-dates Jesus, to describe God. Because for the Greeks, the title Lord described a deity, and this is also the reason why the Roman emperor called himself Lord – because he demanded the worship that is due to a god and had Christians martyred because they retorted to him: only Jesus is Lord.

The mystery of Jesus

Not only then, but also today it is still accurate to summarize what we believe about Jesus with the name Son of God. In as much as comparisons with human concepts have the power to illuminate anything at all, it expresses that Jesus and the Father are one and the same. And at the same time, it becomes apparent that they are not the same person, as though the Father had shared in Jesus' life on Earth. The authors of the New Testament express themselves much more precisely than we usually do. When they say God, they always mean the Father. Jesus is the Son, the Anointed One (=Christ), God’s Servant; for Christians, He is the Lord. Despite His unity with the Father, Jesus is a separate entity, He prays to Him. And one time, He said a word that has always been a dilemma for Christians, who regard Him as God’s own Son: the Father is greater than I (John 14:28).

The name Gods Son means: there is a unique relationship between Jesus and the Father, a relationship of trust, of devotedness, of always being there for one another. This is why Jesus can act in God’s name. What he says and does, the Father also says and does, and the Father fulfills His purpose for mankind through Jesus – just as long ago kings and lords used to call their representatives and assistants son. It is in this sense that Jesus wants to include all those who believe in His son-relationship with the Father. The core of His being God’s Son can never be achieved by any human being. The difference between my Father and your Father is never nullified. But in His living relationship to the Father – all people should follow Him. Paul frankly said: For through faith you are all children of God in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26). And when someone accused Jesus that He acted contrary to God’s way, He defended Himself with saying that already the Psalms speak of people: I said: You are gods (John 10:34; Psalms 82:6).

The title name Son of God therefore truly explains everything that we think about Jesus. And at the same time, better than any other title for Him, it shows that we will never really understand the mystery of Jesus. For the Son of God is none other than the Son of man, Jesus, the crucified Jesus. One may ask oneself whether these days the title Son of God is not liable to many misunderstandings. However, does this not always happen when one tries to explain the unique? The first thing to do to eliminate misunderstandings is not simply to stop using a meaningful name or title, but rather to explain what it means. Those whose interest does not go deep enough for this, have no right to complain that is possible to misunderstand the name. The best way we can eliminate the misunderstandings is by continually reminding ourselves of the incredible concepts that are contained in the statement that the man Jesus of Nazareth is the incarnate Son of God. No-one has yet found a better name less threatened with misunderstanding. For this reason, we pray in our creed: I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son…, born of the Virgin Mary.

The word became flesh

The New Testament itself offers us more help. In the introduction of the Gospel of John, Jesus is called the Word become flesh (John 1:14). The same tremendous paradox bound up in the title Son of God, also shows up here: The Son of God is is the crucified Christ. The Word of God made flesh, the man from Nazareth whose fate it was to be crucified. This is about the same deep mystery: the God above all, the Lord of His creation, has opened His heart to His rebellious people and – as if that is not already unbelievable enough – has even entered history in coming to live on earth, share His life with us. In and though all this God remains the creator and Lord over all the earth. “At many moments in the past and by many means God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our time , the final days, he has spoken to us in the person of His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). God took on the form of a slave in human likeness, He became human, becoming obedient to death even death on a cross (see Philippians 2:6-8).

With regard to the question at hand, the point is not to decide which religion is right, but rather how the questioners reacted to Jesus’ claim. In the Gospel of John He says of Himself: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12). I am the way, the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice (John 18:37). Thus, the Church professes Jesus Christ as the Truth about God, humankind and the world.

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