The Uniqueness of Christianity
God's love impelled him to take action to help his creatures gone astray so when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman (Gal 4:4) Jesus is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, who was sent for love of mankind:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.... The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (Jn 1:1-5,9-14)
In the last three years of his life, Jesus taught the truth behind the Jewish law (cf. Mt 5:17): the fullness of the truth about man and his place in creation. The morality of Christ is not a set of arbitrary laws designed to keep people from enjoying life. Quite the contrary. Jesus' teachings reveal who man is, and by accepting the truth about oneself, one becomes truly free. This is why Jesus himself proclaimed, ``You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.'' (Jn 8:32)
Jesus' teachings unleash life from endless pursuit of self, the cycle of violence of the law of vengeance (`An eye for an eye...') and the exacting observances of Jewish ritual. Christ's shows the purpose of the Jewish law to be service to the truth about man and his life. Jesus thus channels life back to its true and original direction: love of God and love of neighbor. That is why St. Paul says that he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law (Rom 13:8)
It is a great tragedy that many non-Christians see slavery, not freedom in the truth of Christ. Perhaps they see Christ presented as an angry, exacting judge and condemner of sinners. The contrary is true, for God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (Jn 3:17, cf. Jn 12:47). Jesus associated himself with sinners despite the reproach of the `good people' of the time (cf. Mt 9:10-13, 11:19, 21:31; Mk 2:15-17; Lk 5:30, 7:34). Among the most moving words of Jesus is the parable of the prodigal son, which portrays God as a loving father welcoming home the wayward son who squandered his share of the family fortune (cf. Lk 15). So while it is true that those who remain in their sin until death will suffer eternally after, Jesus extends his hand to help those who are in sin to repent. Jesus condemned sin, not the sinner. His call is an invitation to reconciliation and to God's love.
Jesus himself became a perfect sign of God's overwhelming mercy by taking on the punishment due to man because of sin and he became the perfect example of his own teaching of the truth about man by embracing the wood of the cross. He emptied himself, becoming weak, taking the form of a slave--abandoning for a little while his radiant, overwhelming majesty-- to win us (individually and collectively), to woo us, to take us to himself and become one with us, to abandon his life for us and to hand over his life to us.
Let's try to be impartial in out reasoning: Could God go further in His stooping down, in His drawing near to man, thereby expanding the possibilities of our knowing Him? In truth, it seems that He has gone as far as possible. He could not go further. In a certain sense God has gone too far! Didn't Christ perhaps become ``a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles'' (1 Cor 1:23)? Precisely because He called God His Father, because He revealed Him so openly in Himself, He could not but elicit the impression that it was too much.... Man was no longer able to tolerate such closeness, and thus the protests began.
This great protest has precise names--first it is called the Synagogue, and then Islam. Neither can accept a God who is so human. ``It is not suitable to speak of God in this way,'' they protest. ``He must remain pure Majesty. Majesty full of mercy, certainly, but not to the point of paying for the faults of His own creatures, for their sins.'' (Pope John Paul II, ``If God Exists, Why Is He Hiding?'' Crossing the Threshold of Hope, pp. 40-41.)
God has revealed himself to the world through the person of Jesus Christ, whose entire life, but especially his passion and death, stand as the archetype of complete self-gift.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. (1 Jn 4:9-10)
Jesus' sacrifice, his passion and death on Calvary, exemplify love. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us (1 Jn 3:16). He gave his life for us freely: ``No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.'' (Jn 10:18) In following the example of Jesus' love we become truly human.
This is not an evanescent love the waxes and wanes with the whims of emotion. This is everlasting love that gives itself completely, that costs the lover everything, like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Mt 16:45-46).
The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 22)
...man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself. (Gaudium et Spes, 24)
The promise of Christ is that if we die to ourselves, we will rise to live eternally with him: unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (Jn 12:24). The sign of his veracity is his rising from the grave to a new and radically better life. The entire Christian faith hinges on this historical fact, because if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain (1 Cor 15:14). It is the assurance Jesus has overcome the world (Jn 16:33), that love is as strong as death (Song 8:6), that we will find the most profound peace and happiness in sacrifice, that we need not be afraid (cf. Mt 28:5,10).
It is an eternal mystery, an unfathomable paradox, an impenetrable obscurity to human reason, but one that bears out every day: man cannot truly live unless he lives for others.
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