Being a Christian
By Archbishop Rowan Williams
Christian life is lived in relationship with God through Jesus Christ and, in common with other Christians, seeking to deepen that relationship and to follow the way that Jesus taught.
Central to that relationship is knowing we can trust God. Saint Paul says at the end of the eighth chapter of his letter to the Church in Rome, ‘if God is for us, who can be against us?’ And this is the heart of faith.
How do we know that ‘God is for us’? Because Jesus Christ, the one human being who is completely in tune with God – with what God wants and what God is doing – has carried the burden of our human betrayals of God and running away from goodness. He has let himself be betrayed and rejected, executed in a humiliating and agonising way, and yet has not turned his back on us. Death did not succeed in silencing him or removing him from the world. He is alive; and that means that his love is alive, having survived the worst we can do.
Nothing – says St Paul in the same passage – can separate us from this love. But this isn’t an excuse for doing what we like, knowing we can get away with it. Once we know that God is ‘for us’, we open up to the gift that God wants to give us – which is a share in his own love and freedom and mercy. We breathe with his breath – that’s part of what it means to say that we receive God’s ‘Spirit’, which makes us live like Jesus ‘in tune’ with God. If we have really taken the message in, we shall live lives of selfless generosity, always asking how the gifts given us – material or imaginative or spiritual or whatever – can be shared in a way that brings other people more fully alive. And we shall be able to trust the generosity of others and be free to receive what they have to give us.
Generosity, gratitude, confidence that when we fail we are still loved – all of this focused on Jesus’ life and death and resurrection. That’s where we start in the lifelong job of being a Christian.