I only dare to give a simple criteria for evaluating the christian life; similar criteria could be obtained for other religions too. Jesus, the founder, was an amazing personality. He reduced the entire system of laws into 2 (or one with two sides) — love of God and love of neighbour. For me, the crux of Christianity lies in the statement in John 10:10, “ I have come so that you may have life and life in its fullness”. For me, the most beautiful expression of this line is seen in the incident of the adulterous women (Jn 8:1–11). Now I wish to understand this tag-line of Christianity on the basis on 3 words. (Now I am not going to explain how I arrive at them… it is for you to judge whether it makes sense). The words are Freedom, Discernment and Joy. We don’t speak of a journey from Freedom to discernment to joy, but it is more like a hermeneutical circle/spiral where each one leads to the other. There is no one starting point and we need to grow in all at all time. I cant forget that the basis for a Christian life is a life in Jesus.
Freedom: This is one of the most misunderstood words in the history of world. I don’t dare to give a perfect definition for the same. Freedom was one of the gifts of God to the first parents in the garden of Eden. Although they sinned, the gift of freedom was never taken away. Jesus empowered people, gave the freedom back to the people, especially from the oppressive shackles of law or their oppressive interpreters. The first point to check is (individually and collectively), are we people who appreciate the freedom of others. Do we support structures that limit the freedom? [Freedom is not the opportunity to do anything, but things that don’t disturb the freedom of others]. When India bans eating of beef in India, I feel it is infringement of the rights of people. Similar it is good to see whether we as individuals/church infringes on the rights of people. Whether diversities in worship are accepted especially when it is not explicitly against the Christian faith? Finally whether the faith empowers people? [Surely Jesus empowered people, the only question is whether his followers do empower or not. Empowered people requires lesser number of laws/rules. One of the main signs of a empowered Christian is an ability to discern]
Discernment: When I make a choice to be a Christian, definitely I can’t do anything as I like. I do things as God would like — it would promote peace, joy, reconciliation and love. Here the actions of Pope Francis [especially Amoris Laetitia]reminds the church of a significant aspect. The church/hierarchy is not called to replace the conscience of the people, but to form them. So I (as a leader of the church) is not invited to make decisions for the people; but decisions has to be taken by each one by listening to the spirit speaking in their conscience. When it is blatantly sinful thing, there is no question of discerning; but in most of the other cases, this option is available. God not only speaks through visions, dreams, voices and all, but more importantly through ordinary actions of life. The role of the church is to empower people to understand God who is acting in these situations.
Joy: This is the essential sign of a Christian (probably the most missing one too). A life in/with Jesus is definitely joyful. (Joy/contentment is much more than pleasure or happiness. It doesn’t mean sad or painful moments are not part of life). The role of Church here is to help people to experience God, a God who is a loving father and mother, a God who is love, compassion, joy or peace incarnate.
I am not making any judgements of anybody or the Church itself. That is for each one to do and try to make Christianity more truer to its founder. The best advertisement for Christianity or any organization is a bunch of followers who exuberates joy.