A couple of years ago I asked a group of teenagers if they could tell me the difference between Christianity and other religions. Here were their common responses:
- Christianity has different holidays
Yeah, that was all they could come up with. Other than that, they said, all religions are basically the same.
And, if all the religions are basically the same – except for externals like what holidays are celebrated – why would anyone choose one over the other? Or why would anyone say that one religion is superior or inferior to the others? Why not just be vaguely “spiritual” but not dogmatically religious?
Of course, there are significant differences between the world’s major religions, beyond just the days we take off from work and the rituals we follow. The differences are profound and far reaching.
And here we face an objection from the irreligious: If there are so many religious beliefs, what is it that sets your religion apart from the crowd of religions?
For Christians, the answer is found in one word, and that word is found in the name of our religion: CHRISTianity. What sets apart Christianity, is Christ.
I want to offer 6 ways that Christ sets Christianity apart.
- The historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. This evidence forces us to look more closely at the claims of Jesus and at the theological meaning of his death.
- Christians follow not only a teaching, but a person. Muslims follow the teachings of Mohammad and Buddhists the teachings of Buddha. Christians follow not only the teachings of Jesus, but the (living) Person of Jesus as well.
- Christ “in us” is the source of our “good behavior”. We do not practice what is good through a sheer act of will, of submission, or secret knowledge, but through the indwelling work of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
- We are saved by grace. God rescues us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, by grace alone through faith alone. We cannot earn even a part of God’s favor. Other religious systems may have a god who displays mercy, but only Christianity shows how salvation is from God from first to last.
- Our God is both high above, and intimately close. Philosophical arguments lead us to a transcendent God. Christ shows us that this transcendent God is also intimately close to us, empathizing with our suffering, indeed entering into our suffering in order to rescue us.
- In the cross we understand Justice, Love, and Forgiveness. How can we make sense of our deepest philosophical questions? The cross. We see the justice, love, and forgiveness of God fully displayed on the cross. We see both our deepest need, and the most profound answer to that need.
Christianity is not just one among many religions, indistinguishable from the others. It stands out to me as profoundly beautiful, and not just because of its teachings, but because of the Person who stands at the center of our rescue, the person of Jesus Christ.