By Tammy Tkach
My sister and I had a discussion about God. The god she believes in is an impersonal force, out there somewhere; she’s not sure exactly where. She believes in reincarnation, sort of. Through her studies of world religions, she has developed a belief system that works for her. She didn’t agree with what I had to say about God, but she did acknowledge my belief system works for me and she’s OK with that.
Many people look at religions as belief systems and that’s what they are. Belief systems provide a framework for life, defining behaviors and providing guidance in difficult circumstances. Some have nothing to do with religion. Others are based on bits and pieces from many religions and some are all about a religious figure or supernatural phenomena. A person doesn’t have to be religious to have a belief system, but religious people always have one.
Jesus was born into a belief system set up by God himself, one with laws, rules and regulations, and rewards based on obedience. By Jesus’ time, of course, the religious leaders had embellished this belief system, adding a lot of dos and don’ts. It may appear from his teachings that Jesus was merely bringing a new belief system to the world, one that emphasized love, mercy and even poverty. Most people agree he was a great teacher. But a lot of his sayings seemed to lay even heavier burdens on the faithful. Consider his teaching on adultery: Mosaic Law said it was wrong to commit adultery, but Jesus said looking on someone with lust is a sin. Did he wrap the laws even more tightly around our necks, making it virtually impossible to obey God?
On the other hand, Jesus didn’t seem to go along with that belief system very well, did he? He healed people on the Sabbath, picked and ate grain on the Sabbath and kept company with sinners. He pretty much flaunted the rules and called the ones overly concerned with these things hypocrites. So what are we supposed to do with Jesus’ example? Flaunt the rules or keep them even more rigidly? What so many don’t understand is that Jesus didn’t bring a new belief system at all – he brought himself. Christianity is not about rules of behavior or conforming to a set of laws and regulations. It’s not about looking, acting and thinking as a uniform group of brainwashed automatons. It’s about him.
Jesus is not a belief system. From the beginning, he’s the one who was God, with God and through whom everything that exists was created. He’s the Lord of the universe and the Savior of all mankind. Christians follow him, not a set of rules. Now we look to him, not to laws and regulations, walking in the spirit by faith.
Some things we all know and believe: he lived and died for us. His is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved. He finished his saving work on the cross. We will be as he is and we will be with him for all eternity.
When Jesus was born as a helpless infant into this evil world, he didn’t come to enhance the Old Covenant belief system or to bring a New Covenant one. God sent his only son to be everything for us. Thanks to God for Emmanuel – God with us. Merry Christmas!