What is Christianity, anyway?
“. . . Jesus said unto him [Matthew], Follow me. And he arose and followed him” (See Matthew 9:9, RSV).
The disciples were first called “Christians” at Antioch.
And now, around the world, more than two billion souls are identified by that designation. The disciples, Luke wrote, “were called” Christians. It was because of their resemblance to Jesus. The name was originally intended to be an insult – but it became a compliment.
We often “call ourselves” Christians. Do we bear the same resemblance to Jesus? As others have asked, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Matthew teaches us that Christianity is a calling. He was sitting at his desk collecting taxes. Jesus walked by and said simply, “follow me.”
Like Elijah’s experience in the Old Testament, it wasn’t the wind, or earthquake, or fire that moved Matthew.
It was the “still, quiet voice” that made all the difference. God still calls today. He comes to us where we are. He speaks to us in our loneliness, anxiety, doubt, disappointment, weakness, and sin. Perhaps you have heard that “quiet voice” calling you at home, at work, at school, in your car, or during some important even such as a birth, a death, a graduation, or a wedding.
Matthew reminds us that Christianity is a commitment. The turning point in Matthew’s story (and life) is found in the words “he arose, and followed him.” He responded to the call. He made a commitment. The Message says he “stood up” and followed Jesus. In fact, Luke writes that he “left all” and followed! Many who call themselves Christians have never made that kind of commitment.
The mature person, and the mature Christian, is the one who is capable of commitment. It is a critical mark of maturity. Could it be that we are afraid of this kind of commitment to Christ? Are we afraid of what he might ask us to do? Are we afraid of where he might ask us to go? Are we afraid of whom he might ask us to love? Matthew confronts us with the fact that Christianity is a contribution. There are 11 of Jesus’ parables and three of his miracles that only Matthew recorded. Without his contribution our knowledge of Jesus would be diminished. What are you contributing to the spiritual life, health, and vitality of your spouse, your children, your church? Matthew wasn’t concerned about not being able to write the first gospel, or all of the gospels, or the most books in the New Testament. He simply determined that he would follow Jesus and make a contribution. Should we do any less?
Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.