Of all days throughout the year, today — Good Friday — is a day especially sacred to those who claim the name of “Christian.” It is not only sacred, but somber; a day that calls modern-day followers of Jesus, the Christ, away from the busy-ness of life and into a silence of prayerful reflection, spending at least some time this day meditating on the core mysteries of Christian faith.
As I was waking up this morning, listening to the quiet of the pre-dawn night and conscious of what day it was I was awaking to, I thought how the popular use and understanding of that appellation — Christian — has come so far from its fundamental meaning.
Christianity is a credal faith; the question, “what do Christians believe?” is easy to answer. We have a text that we can point to; a text we can recite and say “this is what we believe.” The ancient Nicene Creed beautifully and poetically identifies those “sine qua non” beliefs of Christianity.
In our own day, “Christian” is all-too often used in a partisan political context, as an adjective to describe large sections of the political Right, or as part of the name of coalitions or political action committees.
An old hymn proclaims, “they will know we are Christians by our love.” Today, of all days, Christians everywhere should ask ourselves if this is true. Is love the defining character or quality of Christianity today? Is love, especially the self-emptying love of Christ on the Cross, what others think of first when they hear “Christian” today? Is the agapaic love of Jesus the preeminent quality of our own lives, the way those with whom we live and work would characterize us?