There are several ways of thinking about and looking at Christianity.  We can see it as an ecclesiastical structure, with two thousand years of history behind it and millions of members belonging to it.  We can think of it as a theological system that holds to certain basic ideas about God and about life.  We can look upon it as a moral and ethical standard that calls for the highest kind of conduct that the world has ever known. 

          All of these are valid views of Christianity; but in its beginning it was none of these things.  Trace it back to its roots and you will discover that the Christian faith started as a friendship between a carpenter from Nazareth and a few fishermen from Galilee.  They had no ecclesiastical structure and no system of theology, but they did begin to learn a moral and ethical way of living.  But that was not the first thing.  Christianity in its inception was a bond of friendship between Jesus and His disciples.  They became convinced that He loved them even to the point of willingness to lay down His life for them.  And they developed in their hearts a love for Him from which they could not escape.

          That was how our Christian faith got started – a friendship between Jesus and His disciples.  And Christianity in its purest form is still that today – a love affair between Jesus and each and every one of us.  If you or I could have traded places with any of the 12 apostles, the Lord would have dealt with us as He dealt with them.  He would have looked us in the face, He would have called us by name, and He would have asked, “Do you love me?”  That is the ultimate question that each of us must answer.

         But one thing is different for you and me.  We cannot jump overboard and swim to Him, as Simon and Peter did.  We cannot look Him in the face and tell Him of our love, as the Apostles did.  But throughout 2022 we can answer Him in the only way that really counts. 

          The ultimate answer cannot be spoken; it can only be lived.  The only way that you and I can show our love for Jesus is by sharing His love for, His concern for, and His commitment to other people.

          Have you seen the bumper sticker that says, “Honk if you love Jesus?”  We can do that if we so choose.  But unless we care for and forgive people, it really will not matter.  That is the bottom line.  That is the ultimate answer.  And if we leave that out, nothing else really matters.

          In the New Testament, our love for God of Jesus is never directed up to heaven.  It is always directed out to the people.  As in this instance: “Simon, do you love me?”  “Yes, Lord, I love you!” “Feed my sheep.”  Or again in the New Testament Jesus said to His disciples, “As my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other.”

          In the First letter of John in the New Testament, there is a sentence that begins like this: “If God has loved us so…”  One might suppose that the rest of the sentence would say: “we ought to love Him in return…”  But that is not what it says.  What it says is this: “If God has loved us so, we must have the same kind of love for one another.”

          Real Christianity is never a two-way love affair between God and me.  It is always a love triangle among God, and me, and other people.

          There is much for us to learn and much for us to live out in 2022.