Difference of ‘Following Christ’ from Christianity 

Rev Dr Phuveyi Dozo
Naga United Village

Christianity is taken as a religion whereas following Christ is a personal relationship with God. Christianity is viewed as a religious wave rippled worldwide whereas Christ is the fulfillment of historicity and prophecy as the salvation plan of God. Simplicity of following Christ means ‘accepting what he taught in the Bible’ whereas a religion is a practice of psychological, ritual formula and superstitious imaginations under the pretext of a belief.     

The followers of Hindu mythological gods and deities are called Hindus, Buddhists are who adhere to the teaching of Buddha, so Mahavir for Jains, Guru Nanak for Sikhs in India, and Confucius for Confucianism in China. Similarly, the followers of the Lord Jesus were consequently termed as Christians in Antioch. The Lord taught that he is the Creator (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). He came to the world (not an avatar) in fulfillment of the Scriptures to save the world. The message of his resurrection was vehemently proclaimed worldwide by the apostle Paul who was a staunch opponent of the Way before he met Christ.  

The Term ‘Christians’ 

The term ‘Christians’ (Acts 11:26) was evolved and generated from ‘Christ.’ Mathematically, Christ+ian is the equation of one who renounced the pleasure of the world to follow Christ. In other word, a Christian is an ambassador for Christ.   From this term, a nomenclature as ‘Christianity’ was coined as a religion. The birth, life, ministry, resurrection and ascension of Jesus took place in Israel  which is strategically located as the center of world powers that time, chosen by God,  from where the message rippled to the four corners of the globe.

The believers of Christ get together to worship God on Sundays having  sacramental practices, namely,  baptism based on public confession and Lord Supper, remembering the death and resurrection of Christ. These are the ordinances ordained and instituted by the Lord. The followers of Jesus do not perform a ritual or superstitious gesture. They directly worship Jesus, God, without any intermediary or representative images. ‘Following Christ’ is a religion-less faith whereas Christianity is labeled as a religion in the list of world religions as the followers of Jesus do not belong to a religion. It is a humble and inclusive spiritual form, not an imperialistic and exclusivistic faith. It is a common platform for all people. Jesus has room for people of every nation, language and religion (Revelation 7:9). What is more important than a religious nomenclature is a believing heart. Similarly, it is not ‘Christianity’ as a religious label but a heart with Jesus as the content. The crux is that people who follow Jesus Christ have eternal salvation (John 3:16).  
The Message Came to India

The Emperor Constantine declared Christianity as the official state religion in 315. Being the dominant world power, the influence of Christianity, by and large, reached nations of the world through missionary wave and socio-political impacts. The ancient tradition of India accepts that St. Thomas came to India in 52 CE and died in India. Protestantism that began in 1517 grew worldwide through mushrooming democratic nations. Francis Xavier, called the Apostle to India, came to India, landing at Coromandel, Goa, in 1542, in 1706 the First Protestant Missionary, Bartholomaeus reached India, William Carey reached India in 1792, Amy Wilson Carmichael in 1895 followed by many subsequent missionaries. Nineteenth Century India witnessed a great emergence of a new indigenous generation in Indian soil with Krishna Mohan Banerjee, Lal Behari Day, Nehemiah Goreh, Brahmabandhav Upadhyay, P Chenchiah, V Chakkari, Sadhu Sundar Singh, and AJ Appasamy, all finding a way to relate their Christian faith to their Indian context.

On the other hand, Transcendental Meditation, Hari Krishna, Buddhism, and Yoga education spread worldwide from Indian soil like the way the message of the Bible came to India following the Apostle Thomas. The message was well received by people in India in their context. The history of India cannot deny many positive values such as education, medical services, social healing and transformation, economic elevation, liberation from past cultural cruelty and elevating India to global level, contributed by the missionaries. 

Christians in India apprehend persecution. Constitutionally, there is no provision to persecute the followers of Jesus Christ as people have freedom to choose a faith to follow. For example, people who chose to follow the teaching of Krishna are Hindus and Buddha as Buddhists. Choice of a faith is the right. As the Lord Jesus is the universal Savior having preexistence even before father Abraham was born (John 5:58), His deity cannot be indigenized though He is worshiped in native and indigenous contextual forms. Mahatma Gandhi, the national father of India accepted the principles and teachings of the Lord (Matthew 5:3-9) and meditated on them. The Lord Jesus advocated non-violence (Ahimsa), loving enemies, principle of non-vengeance (Matthew 5:38-48), and loving poor, needy and neighbors. The Bible teaches about peaceful social harmony like ‘unity in diversity’ (Romans 12:9-21). There is no way to go against people who practice the teaching of Lord Jesus. Rather, India in particular and the world in general, need to practice what the Lord Jesus taught about love and charity, work and life, peace and unity, and honesty and morality.

Christian persecution will not rise when the followers of Christ are honest and promote Honesty, loyal and promote Loyalty, and free from force-conversion (inducement and proselytization). In a diverse world, who can harm Christ’s followers when they work hard and render good service to people, improve human quality, living the truth and showing the way, and promoting the three indigenous principles of growth: Self-support, Self-management, and Self-witnessing in their given native soil? The matter is not Christianity as a religion but following Christ with a godly heart in truth.  

The world understands that the true followers of Christ are a people of accountability and integrity. Like riffraff in other religions, the beauty of Christianity is tarnished by so-called Christians who fail to practice the teaching of the Lord Jesus. The followers of Christ are compared with salt and light (Matthew 5:13, 14) of the world.    

May God bless the readers of this article!