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Monday, 16 November 2009

The Uniqueness of Christianity

I still haven't received my replacement modem/router, but discovered an old 'stand-alone' modem, so have regained internet access on one computer!

Yesterday morning, while listening to the BBC Radio 4 programme 'Sunday', I heard a former nun, Karen Armstrong, attribute to the Dalai Lama (the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism) the statement: "Every single religion teaches the same thing." Then, later, at Calderhead Erkine Parish Church, where have been doing most of my preaching over recent months, the minister who was preaching as Sole Nominee to fill the vacancy there, made reference to the uniqueness of Christianity. It's a vitally important subject and so, over the next few posts, I want to share something of why the Christian faith is, indeed, so different from all other religious belief-systems, that it may be considered to be unique.

This evening, I want to mention Love. Now it is true that most religions have some concept of love - although the emphasis placed on it may vary considerably. However, when we come to the Christian faith, we find that love is absolutely central. Indeed, it is given as the simplest description of Almighty God. Writing in his First Letter, John makes the (repeated) claim that "God is love". (I Jn.4:8).

Two things need to be emphasised. First of all, the love of which John writes is not the erotic, sensual, love of the cheap novel, or the suggestive film, that may be more accurately referred to as 'lust'! Nor is it the soppy, sentimentalised, love of the Mills & Boon type of story. It isn't even the perfectly respectable love of a husband for his wife (and vice/versa), or of parents for their children. John uses a specific word from the Greek language, that is written (in this Roman script) as 'agape'. I well recall my former minister, spiritual mentor, and friend, the late Rev. George B. Duncan, define agape as "the minimum of emotion, and the maximum of evaluation." By this he meant that agape love is more concerned with the value of its object, than with mere 'feelings' - although feelings.emotions are not to be totally discounted. Agape is, indeed, the very love of God Himself.

But it's a love that is to be practised by disciples of Jesus. Indeed, He says to His disciples (now as well as then!) "A new commandment I give to you,, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also may love one another. By this all men will know that that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another." (Jn.13:34-35)

The second thing to emphasise is that God is not simply the highest, and best, form of love. It is not as if love is a ladder with us on the bottom rung, and God on the top rung. Rather, John is saying that God is, in this illustration, the ladder. He is, essentially, love. Without Him, love would not exist and, if I may state it with all reverence, without love, He would not exist!

Over the years, I have studied a fair number of belief-systems of one sort and another. But I have not come across any that have that sort of picture of the One Who is the Creator, and Sustainer, of all that is. Love, alone, would be sufficient to show the uniqueness of Christianity. However, there is more - so do return to this site to discover some of its other unique aspects!

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