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In the page I am going to attempt to describe the day to day Christian life. Aspects are dealt with in other pages, such as ethics ("the Law") and the showing of love. The page on worship describes a key public element of the Christian life. The focus here will be on the personal aspects. It is clearly a hopeless task to give a complete treatment in a single page. There is simply more material than I can possibly do justice to. But I hope I can give you at least a taste of what is involved.

The Christian life involves a number of different aspects. Among the key ones are

Fellowship with God

Our relationships with others

Obedience to God's commands

Discipline

Many of these things are less visible and harder to talk about than other topics in these essays. However for most Christians they are most important. It is easy to talk about the Trinity, the appropriateness of baptizing infants, Catholic/Protestant differences about justification, and all the rest. The religion newsgroups are filled with such discussion. More conventional news is full of the political side, such as abortion and the rights of homosexuals.

But being a disciple of Jesus is primarily shown in less exciting and visible things, such as learning to live with others, the discipline of daily prayer life, fighting urges for anger, and maintaining sexual purity. These things are largely common to Christians from all traditions.

The Goal

Christianity is about personal relationships: with God and with others. When Jesus was asked to summarize his religion, he said that it was loving God and our neighbor. Everything else is a means to that end.

This page will discuss a number of specific techniques, including difficult practices such as repentance and self-discipline. I am concerned that the overall impact may be to make Christianity look like an unpleasant or dreary religion. It is not. The techniques I discuss here are means to an end. They are intended to promote growth, healing, and reconciliation. However the reason we discipline ourselves and all the rest is to improve the quality of our relationships with God and with other people.

This issue is dealt with clearly in the following passage from one of Paul's letters in the Bible:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

One of the most important terms for Christians is "fellowship". This term covers our life together as Christians. This means first of all that we spend time together, in worship, educational activities, service to others, and just having fun. In addition to their primary goal, these activities help us get to know each other, and to develop into a community. The Bible refers to the Christian community using organic metaphors, such as a vine and a body. It talks about us sharing with each other and supporting each other.

When people think of Christianity they sometimes think of it as a set of prohibitions: "Why do Baptists not have sex standing up? Because it might lead to dancing." Fortunately, this is a joke. However sometimes Christians actually have gotten carried away with rules. Rules of behavior have turned into an end in themselves, rather than ways of protecting us so that we can develop better relationships. However good sense normally prevails in the end.

While rules should never be the focus of Christian life, they do exist. Many people find it hard to understand any kind of self-discipline and any kind of limits on behavior. But Christians do avoid some things in order to allow a deeper and more joyful kind of fellowship. The specific things they avoid will tend to vary over time, depending upon the circumstances. The joke above refers to the fact that at one time a number of Christian groups were opposed to dancing. At that time, the dances had become very sexually suggestive. Thus some Christians saw dancing as an occasion for men to see women as sex objects, rather than an opportunity to develop the sort of fellowship Christians want.

The Challenge of Sin

I believe that we would be involved in a process of growth and discovery even in a world without sin. However this is not such a world. Because of our inborn tendencies to sin, this process is also one of recovery from sin. As such it involves repentance (acknowledge of sin and turning away from it), healing, and reconciliation with both God and those around us. In Protestant theology this process is known as "sanctification", which means a growth in holiness.

The dangers of sin cause the whole process to be both more difficult and more dangerous than it otherwise would be. Because sin is deeply rooted, a growth in holiness involves a complete reorientation of our selves. Christian teaching and experience both see this process as like death and rebirth. In defeating sin, we are killing a part of ourselves, which the Bible calls the "old man".

This means that the process must be a disciplined one. I do not want to imply that it is unpleasant to be a Christian. There are many joys to be found. However like training to be an athlete (an analogy used in the New Testament, by the way), there is "no gain without pain". We have a regular job of looking at the messes we've made recently, and getting God's help to do something about them. This is a process that almost no one can maintain without discipline: regular scheduling, and some method of accountability.

Catholic tradition identifies seven particularly troublesome classes of sins (the "seven deadly sins"): They are pride, covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and sloth. While no one is safe from any of these, those that pose the greatest challenge to the disciplined Christian life are almost certainly pride and sloth.

MAJOR COMPONENTS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

Prayer

Among the major components of the Christian life are prayer, repentance, discipline, study, service, and evangelism.

Jesus' life and teachings make it clear how important prayer is.

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