Technically speaking I am part of what has been known as the “Christian religion” or “Christianity”. However, all to often the concept of “religion” (let alone the English word) has come to merely mean “a system of spiritual beliefs and practices”. I suppose that is good and well depending on the context you are using the word in. In our society and many western cultures, the concept of “spiritual or religious beliefs” are regularly understood to be separate category that is unrelated and disconnected to other parts of our lives and lifestyle; they are “personal” (in terms of “private”) not to be talked too much about in society (the whole separation of faith and the rest of your life kind of jargon). While I think there are more helpful ways to think about the concept of “religion”, I am aware this is the common understanding within society at large parts of western culture. In addition to this, the words “Christianity” and the “Christian Religion” get attached to all sorts of interesting, even damaging things in our world, let alone western culture. Including among them are Christian fundamentalism and American triumphalism, which is truly unfortunate. Seems “Christianity” and “religion” in general has needed some necessary reexamining in our day. I however resonate with understanding religion as “a way of life” and with Christianity in particular as a “a way of life centered on Jesus and following him.” So while it involves “spiritual beliefs and practices”, it is much more than that and more meaningful than that. This way of life is focused specifically on the person of Jesus (the real historical Jesus who was actually raised from the dead) and the God we meet in him. With that definition, I can in good conscience use the word Christianity in my blog’s theme, “Authentic Christianity Matters”. As far as Christianity is concerned, I am much more interested in being identified as someone who follows Jesus and who does so (or attempts to do so) authentically than being identified with a system of spiritual beliefs and practices (that would be a bit boring and dry and has never really produced life change as knowing and following Jesus). Jesus is not merely a part of my life… one category of my life. He clarifies and speaks into all of my life. I have an actual relationship with a person. Add to this conversation the inescapable dynamic that when it comes to talking about Jesus, a hundred people could be in the same room and be speaking about Jesus Christ and mean something slightly different, or quite possibly very different. Our upbringing, our present and past sociological contexts, and other human experiences shape what we mean when we say “Jesus”. This is true even among fellow “Christians” who speak of Jesus, although we all would love to think we always speak accurately as God’s oracles on who Jesus is (emphasis on “always”). So, more and more, as I seek to clarify my understanding of Jesus and my trust in him, I have linked onto the following phrase that the person I have to come to know and trust and follow is in fact “the God I meet in the face of Jesus”. My hope and prayer is this: as you read this blog, may you consider this Jesus and the God you find in him, and how this new encounter is transforming your life. After all, to know and follow the real Jesus will redefine and reshape everything you ever knew and launch you on his mission to heal and restore and remake this broken world in his name and by the strength of his spirit.