Start with happiness
It seems to me that I am much happier as a Christian than I would be if I weren’t. By “being a Christian” I mean following Jesus - trying my best to act, think and speak like he want’s me to because I’m grateful that he did what I believe he did. I believe he died for my sins and is now alive, having been miraculously resurrected by his father1 (who is now my father too).
It’s not just an intellectual exercise. I believe that Jesus is alive because I seem to have experienced his companionship and intervention in my day-to-day life. This is unusual, mind boggling, and makes things significantly more complicated than if I thought he were dead. Nonetheless it seems to be true.
It’s not like I see supernatural intervention every day or anything, but there have been various times - too many to discard - when my prayers have been answered in practical ways (I’ll leave out the intangible for now) that have surprised me and given me a lot of respect for the risen Jesus doing what its said he’d do in the bible.
There was this time I was in Yemen trying to get back to my room across town, at night and during a storm. I was lost and couldn’t read Arabic to understand which bus to get. So I prayed, and two buses later I got off at the right stop.
Another example, I was getting a haircut in Liverpool Street Station in London, and as I was sitting in the chair someone took my work bag. When I came to pay, I realised my laptop and wallet had gone.
Trying to find a stolen bag in central London feels ridiculous. Even so, I spent a few hours wondering around the alleys and parks looking for it, and I resigned myself to some awkward conversations and using most of my next salary to replace the stolen computer.
To my surprise, my parents-in-law prayed about it and were really confident it would come back to me, which seemed super unlikely. A few days later I received a call from an office worker in the Gherkin building - my bag was under his desk and he wanted to know if I’d like to collect it. I guess I’ll try not to make the same mistake twice.
The other example I tend to remember happened not long after I’d first moved to Vienna. I was feeling lonely and isolated and I was wondering how on earth I was going to find some sort of normal that was healthy and sustainable. Try as I might, I wasn’t enjoying things at all and was feeling stressed and overwhelmed. I remember walking up this steep hill in the 18th district towards my office, and repeatedly praying this really simple prayer ‘God, please help, please help, please help..’. It was that simple because I couldn’t think of anything more useful to say.
Nothing dramatic happened that day, or even that week as far as I can remember. But when I look back, it was a turning point when things started getting better instead of worse.
I suppose you can call this last example an intangible answer to prayer. Maybe it is, but I think anyone whose grappled with overwhelming loneliness or panic would say that the emotions become all too tangible at times. Being in a different emotional state seemed to make a tangible difference to just about every area of life. Eating, productivity at work, relationships with friends and colleagues, etc.
This is only the beginning of why I think Jesus is alive and why I think Christianity is a real and living faith. It’s not primarily a tradition, a worldview or a set of rules and ideals.
Christianity is a relationship with Jesus. He did lots of amazing things that have let me have a very practical relationship with him. It’s an almost unbelievable premise from which to live a life. It has so many implications. And it holds up to scrutiny and my experiences bear it out.
Why write this?
Despite Jesus’ incredible works and their implications, modern Christianity seems to be in a really confused and ineffective state. Ideas and thoughts about Christianity-the-faith have become mixed up with cultural christianity, or christian politics and traditions. These are each different things, and unless we distinguish between them with the words we use, we are going to find it hard to think and communicate clearly.
I suspect that we are in a negative cycle of imprecise thinking leading to imprecise articulation, which leads to further imprecise thinking.
Unless we can talk and think about one thing at a time, atomically2 if necessary, we take on the additional risks of reaching the wrong conclusions personally, or arguing with others due to misunderstandings rather than actual disagreement.
We should try to create a more precise vocabulary to navigate our Christian lives, so that we can think clearly about the experiences and questions we have.
Imprecise thinking is frustrating, and conversations are less effective when there’s an increased risk of disagreement or misunderstanding what someone else means. This makes it harder to talk about our faith, which makes talking less common, and this creates room for misunderstanding or apathy, or missed opportunities, or sadness.