“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)
You may have noticed that there are many versions of the Christian faith around these days. That’s putting it rather mildly too. So it would be appropriate and wise to ask “What is the theme of Christianity?”
The theme of Christianity is simple: The crucified Jesus is our only salvation.
This is not a popular answer in today’s America. Many would answer that question by saying: “Well, it doesn’t really matter. Whatever you like is fine.” This kind of sentiment has become a “rock-bed” assumption of modern life and is confessed by both common citizens and powerful elites. To most people in our country, all religion, to include Christianity, is like a salad bar: just throw in whatever you like and create your own. After all, what could be more American then respecting “personal choice”, right?
Well, “personal choice” may be the “American way” but it is certainly not what the apostolic witness nor is it what we confess as Lutherans. Indeed, to “confess the faith” is to actually take a position on what it means; what you think the truth really is. That’s how the Lutheran confession of the Christian faith came into being. Martin Luther was after all a lone person who stood up at great personal cost to the powers that ran the institutional church and said: “No, you’re wrong. This is what it means to be Christian.”
Taking a risk like that seems almost unimaginable in today’s America. Why make a big deal or cause distress about somebody choosing tomatoes instead of carrots at the salad bar? It’s “only” religion anyways; it’s just a “personal choice”, eh?
This “free to choose” myth is the great temptation that continually attacks Christianity. It is in its essence a temptation to abandon the exclusivity of Christ alone and embrace the meaningless mantra of “tolerance and diversity” and the works & ways of the world.
Luther once said: “Reforming always reforming!” By this he meant that we must be on guard for the inherent human tendency to make additions to Christ alone as our savior.
This is the challenge the church faces in every generation. Throughout history voices constantly arise in the church that want to make something other then Christ crucified for you the message; that want to replace this Good News as the theme of Christianity.
Some churches are more “liberal” and want the theme of the Christian faith to be fighting “injustice” in the world. Other churches are more “conservative” and want the Christian message to be ridding yourself and the world of any and all “vices”. Either one is a pretty easy sell to the world and we sinners because both focus not on Jesus Christ (and especially not His cross) but on what a fallen humanity loves most of all: ourselves.
You will notice that St. Paul doesn’t talk about any of these “liberal” or “conservative” human works when He tells the Corinthian church what he was resolved to preach; what he was going to focus his energies on. Paul wrote this because he understood that the Word that counted, that mattered, that actually did something about the problems of sin and death, which no amount of human effort could defeat, was the simple Gospel message of Jesus Christ crucified for your sins and raised for your redemption.
Plainly put, Paul says that Christianity’s theme is always: Jesus has saved you.
The world may find this message “boring”, “uninspiring”, “repetitive”, “intolerant”, even too “simple”, “easy” or “cheap” but it is God’s Grace given especially – for you.