The reflections in the past few days might have reminded all of us that living out our Christian identity is easier said than done. However, please do not be mistaken! It is not the intention of these reflections to make everyone feel overwhelmed; rather, they are vehicles through which we may gain some clarity of the truth. Just as Jesus deliberated the true cost of being a Christian to His disciples, we hope to encourage everyone to fully understand the meaning beneath this identity.
Without a doubt, the contemporary world is drastically different from the world of the early Church over two thousand years ago. The first Christians, living in an ancient world, faced severe persecution and battled exceptional difficulties when they ventured out to evangelize. Not only did they lack easy and reliable means of transportation, but also efficient ways of communication. All these environmental factors have imposed extraordinary demands physically, mentally and spiritually on the disciples.
You may think: “Today is certainly different from the days by-gone! Surely, the work of evangelization is now less challenging, and so, the demands on today’s Christians should not be as demanding as those of Jesus’ times. In that case, many of the teachings, like renouncing myself; carrying my cross everyday; selling everything that I owned; being sent like a sheep among the wolves, and so on, certainly would not apply to today’s situation”. Could this be true? Let us examine the question of what Jesus demands of Christians of the present generation.
It is true that the methods of evangelization need to be adapted to the changing environment and new generations. To a certain extent, evangelization in this present generation may be more convenient and easier; we don’t even need to leave our home to reach out to a large number of people. However, today’s Christians face a different kind of challenge and trial when striving to achieve the same results as the Apostles did in their work of evangelization over two thousand years ago.
Today’s social environment is much more complicated than that of the past. With people being more educated, and with the development of the internet, everyone has easy access to information. The spread of individualism and people’s overconfidence in their own knowledge have become barriers for the present generation to accept the truth of Christ. They won’t, and are unwilling, to surrender themselves to any brand of truth, particularly within organized religions or institutions.
In addition, as the sentiments of antichrist continue to spread all over the world, evangelization in today’s hostile society is doubly onerous for all Christians. The challenges and persecution that we face today are certainly unimaginable to us ten or twenty years ago. How should we handle ourselves as Christians? Are we supposed to throw our hands up or simply put an end to our mission?
Despite the challenges, modern Christians must make additional efforts, be more united, and avoid relying on our own strength and wisdom. We need to surrender ourselves to the Holy Spirit and let our every step be guided by the Spirit, so that we may truly fight the good fight in the spiritual battle.
Although the methods of evangelization differ, the Christian spirit is immutable. Indeed, as Jesus taught His disciples, He wanted them to trust in the Lord and strive to live out the true Christian spirit.
In the Book of Proverbs, chapter 3, verses 5 to 6, it says,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”
Contemporary Christians need to have a clear understanding of what they believe in, their personal relationship with Christ, Christians’ identity, and how all these are related to our lives, etc. All these demand our thorough reflection and consideration. Only in this way would we be able to share what we genuinely believe to be the best with others.
If we want to find order in chaos, our life needs a focus.
Our most important mission as Christians is to live out Christ’s spirit and do whatever He asks in today’s world. If we don’t fully understand our mission, we will remain stuck in chaos; thus, unable to find order!
However, if we are certain about our identity and fix our gaze on Jesus, we will have motivation, goals and direction in our life. Consequently, an orderly plan can be established.
In the Book of Proverbs, chapter 16, verse 3, it says,
“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”
During this Season of Lent, let us recommit ourselves to bear any burdens and sacrifices behind our Christian promise, affirm our efforts to overcome our sinful nature, offer up our preferences and baggage, rectify our life, and choose a Christ-centred path and direction; patiently awaiting our assignment and be ready to be sent!
What is the focus of your life? What is the relationship between this focus and your Christian identity?
Among your many identities, is your Christian identity obvious? Why or why not?
Now, quiet down your heart and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit: How is He inviting you to strengthen your Christian identity?
Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for Your gift of my Christian identity. I know that I am often distracted by all the chaotic situations in my life, such that I fail to recognize what my Christian identity demands of me; thus, squandering Your teachings and what You entrusted to me. Help me respect this noble identity so that I may live accordingly, and earnestly fulfil the responsibilities that come with this identity. Help me to be brave and resolute in facing down all kinds of challenges as I bring the Good News to the world today. Lord Jesus, I trust in You!
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.