Guy Browning: How to ... be a christian

To be a Christian, you have to believe three things that start difficult and get harder. The first thing to believe is that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin. The second is that Jesus died but then came back to life. The third thing is the hardest to believe but makes sense of the first two: that Jesus was the son of God. Oh, and you also have to believe in God.

If you're OK with all this, you then have to understand why God chose to send his son to live on earth. God wanted to show us the right way to live and to forgive us if we didn't follow the right way. As a highway code, Jesus gave us his life and works, a refresher on the 10 commandments and a group of trainers (of varying quality) known as the apostles.

Once you've accepted that God has shown himself interested in your moral wellbeing, it should change your behaviour. Jesus then works with you as a kind of spiritual personal trainer. The goal is to love God, love other people and generally be good. Of course, we may not be able to do this all the time, but as long as our intentions are good, we will continue to receive God's support.

One-to-one sessions with God and Jesus are available through prayer. This works in two ways: first, it gives you some quiet time to get your life in perspective; second, it allows you to refocus on the core message of Christianity, which is love. And love, as everyone knows, is the answer.

An attractive part of Christianity is the promise of eternal life. The resurrection of Jesus was to demonstrate that death isn't the end of the story. It's not exactly clear what the afterlife is, but a reabsorption of one's spirit into the spirit of the universe (God's love) is the preferred explanation.

Christians are split on the role of the church (and on just about everything else, to be fair). Some see the church as a multimedia showcase for the life of Jesus. Others prefer it as a meeting point for prayer.

Either way, churches are places that are dedicated to God and act as spiritual cash machines where one can check one's balance and make withdrawals of forgiveness as necessary.

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