The Christian faith is based on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago, and now has approximately 2 billion followers around the world. The Christian Bible includes the Hebrew Scriptures, traditionally known by Christians as the Old Testament, and the New Testament. The New Testament includes four Gospels, which tell of the life and ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus; the writings and actions of the Apostles, the first Christians, as they spread the Good News of Jesus; and the Book of Revelation.
Christians see in Jesus a fulfilment of God’s Messianic promises, and regard him as both truly human and truly divine. They believe that Jesus died a redemptive death on the Cross, rose from death after his crucifixion, ascended into heaven and will return on the Last Day to judge human beings and to establish the Kingdom of Heaven. By being open to the grace of God and following and practising the teachings of Jesus, Christians believe that humanity can be reconciled to God and receive the promise of eternal life. Indeed, Jesus taught that the Kingdom of Heaven is already in our midst. Christians believe in one God, but almost all Christian denominations also believe that God is known in three ways, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit (defined by theologians as “Three persons in one God”). Different Christian traditions may vary in their interpretations of certain doctrines.
There is a diversity of religious emphasis among the Christian Churches. For some, tradition and ritual are particularly important, while for others evangelism has a major role. Traditionally Christians meet on Sundays for formal communal worship but also meet in small groups for less formal worship and study at other times. For many Christians the Sunday worship is a service in memory of the meal, “The Last supper”, that Jesus ate with the Disciples when he shared the bread and wine and said “Do this in remembrance of me”. This sacrament is known by various names, including the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper and Holy Communion. While the various denominations in the Christian churches have differing traditions, there is generally a structure for services which includes Bible readings from the Old and New Testaments, a variety of congregational prayers including thanksgiving, confession of sinfulness and intercessions, requests for help and a sermon, teaching by the priest or minister. “The Lord’s Prayer” is used by all denominations because it is the prayer that Jesus taught his followers, the disciples. Hymns are sung in most churches whilst silence in God’s presence is observed in other Christian traditions.
Jesus’ greatest teaching to his followers, quoting the Hebrew Scriptures, was to love God and to love your neighbour as much you love yourselves. This has been lived out by Christians through the ages in acts of piety and charity. Today Christians contribute widely to disaster and famine relief work, peace and reconciliation and medical initiatives in a variety of projects throughout the world. Today, to enhance a peaceful understanding and respect for all people, many Christians are involved in dialogue with all the other mainstream religions of the world.