Christ The Center

John Vissers

A few months ago a friend described Jesus Christ with these words, “His centre is everywhere, his circumference nowhere.” It wasn’t an entirely original thought, and she probably got it from Augustine or G.K. Chesterton. But at the time it grabbed my attention.

Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:13). Scripture declares he is before all things and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). Christian faith is Christ-centred because it affirms that in the life, teachings, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus we meet the creator, sustainer and redeemer of all things.

It’s true that some Christians feel the need to proclaim Christ in ways that seem narrow and exclusive and judgmental. But the Jesus of the gospels does not exclude; he embraces. God’s great love for the world is given supremely in outstretched arms on a cross. The good news is that the ascended Christ is present everywhere; his reach knows no boundaries.

At its best, the Presbyterian Church in Canada bears witness to a Christ-centred faith that is both robust and inclusive. We believe that Jesus Christ is the only king and head of the church and that we are called to participate in Christ’s ministry in the world. We know this means bearing witness to Christ by what we say and what we do. We know it means listening to everyone’s voice, especially the betrayed and suffering people of our world, where Christ is already present and at work. We know it means being unashamed of the gospel and confident in its saving power.

We also know it takes great wisdom and sensitivity and humility to be a faithful follower of Jesus today. We live among Christians with different traditions and practices, people of other religious faiths and increasingly people of no religious faith at all. We live in a vast land among people of First Nations, English and French, and diverse immigrant populations. We are part of a global community.

The great challenge before us as Presbyterians may not be our institutional future as a church: it may be whether we can faithfully and sensitively bear witness to Jesus Christ in our time. If we try to save our life as a church, we’ll probably lose it. But if we are willing to lose our life as a church for the sake of Christ and his gospel, we may just find it.

The 138th General Assembly sought to bear witness to Jesus Christ with courage and faith. It was a privilege to sit in the moderator’s chair and listen to the voices of our church, young and old, ministers and elders, women and men, increasingly diverse ethnic and linguistic groups, all speak with passion and conviction about the Jesus they follow and the vision they have for this church—Christ’s church.
In the year ahead, I ask you to pray that I will be given grace to bear witness to Jesus Christ, the centre of our faith, our hope and our love.

In Christ,


About John Vissers

Rev. Dr. John Vissers is director of academic programs and professor of historical theology at Knox College, Toronto.