I remembered this as a rather inadequate explanation of the Christian faith. While `behaving well' is an important aspect of the life as a Christian, the essence of being a Christian is something different, I think.
So, what is the essence of being a Christian? The word Christian shows that it has to do with Christ.
About two thousand years ago, in the country of Israel, Jesus Christ was born. (To be precise, he was born four years before the official start of the Christian counting of the years, as a monk has made an error: he meant to start the year 1 in the year Christ was born. We celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas. Christians belief he was the son of God, indeed part of God himself. During his life, he went around the villages and cities of Israel, where he preached and cured people. (Another time more about miracles.) At the Jewish eastern celebration however, the people were disappointed in him, as they expected that he would free Israel from the occupation by the Romans, and they brought him to death by crucifiction. Christians belief that this was planned by God, and that God made Jesus become alive again three days after his death. In four of the books in the Bible, the story of Jesus life, death, and resurrection is told, as is told how people met Jesus again after his resurrection, and more.
As other Christians, I belief that this happened such that we can be reconciled with God, by accepting Jesus death. We do so many things wrong in life, that God cannot accept us without a punishment. But, instead of giving the punishment to us, he gave the punishment to his son Jesus Christ.
I heard a good story that illustrates what happened. There was a judge that had to judge a girl in court, that had done something wrong. Now, the judge was to fine the girl her punishment - a penalty of 600 guilders. The girl complained that there was no way she could pay that money as she did not have it, but the judge was firm: she had to pay, and indeed, she deserved that punishment. But after the trial was over, the judge came down and gave the girl the 600 guilders, as he was the father of the girl. So is God: we deserve our punishment, but instead of giving it to us, he took it upon himself. And, we, by accepting this offer from God - his forgiveness, his offer of Jesus Christ, we become his children. And, in the end, when our life on earth is ended, we go and live with him - in heaven. But also, in this life, we have Gods support and guidance in our lives.
Accepting that offer from God to us is the essence of being a Christian. But, it is not the entire story. It does not mean that then we can just go on and live our lives as usual. If we realize what happened, then we act ourselves in return - we do not want anymore to do things wrong in life, we want to communicate with God and thank him for what he did. Thus, we pray, give donations to our church or to causes that help people in less fortunate circumstances than ourselves, sing songs to praise and thank God in or outside church, etcetera. But the acceptance of Gods offer to us: his forgiveness for us by taking upon us our guilt, is the first thing that matters.
I acknowledge that there are several things unsaid here - things that are important, like how to deal with the things we do wrong (or, in Christian terms: sins), how God acts in our daily lives, etcera. I hope to write more on those things later.
Thank you for reading this. If you have comments or questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that some emails will not arrive due to the mailing system of my department.
Hans Bodlaender, January 28, 1999