If we were to ask what it is that makes us Christian, one way of answering might be this: to be a
Christian is to believe that in Jesus Christ the full range of what’s possible for human beings
becomes real. What it is to be human is set out before us in a unique way, so that we see that to be
fully human is to be turned, in trust, to God and to be turned in gift, healing and generosity to God’s
world. That’s what is made possible for us in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. To believe
that is surely basically what it is to be Christian.
It’s a conviction not just about the kind of God that God is, but a conviction about the kind of
people you and I are. Or perhaps, a bit more accurately, the kind of people you and I just might be –
and that’s the great “could be” that the life and death and resurrection of Jesus announces to us.
Now if that’s what it is to be a Christian, if this involves believing that for all human beings there is
a Jesus-shaped hope of fulfilment and liberation, you can see why Christians have said that
Christianity is a universal religion. It’s not just an eccentric point of view, adopted by a dwindling
number of people in the northern half of the globe. It’s not peculiar to one area, one language, or
So it’s a universal hope – and that’s of course where things get a bit difficult; because what about all
those people who don’t share that conviction, who don’t want to pin their hopes on the person of
Jesus, who don’t see that the hope of all humanity is Jesus-shaped? How do we befriend, stand
alongside, understand, listen to all these people? Well, it’s a complicated question, but let me just
suggest a very small number of things that seem to me to arise from those basic convictions which
might help us make sense of how and where we stand with our non-Christian neighbours.