“They will know we are Christians by our love,” as the song goes. Or as Jesus put it, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:35 RSV) The world should know us by our love for one another – by our charity, by our loving actions and attitudes, toward Christians and non-Christians alike.
How, though, are Christians to know each other?
We know each other by our shared profession of faith – by our creed.
There have been many formulations in Christian history, though we’re most familiar with the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan (shorted to just Nicene) Creed. Every evangelist should know and understand one of these creeds. Every Christian should know and understand one of these creeds. (But I repeat myself.)
The Creed is vital to evangelism for at least three reasons:
1. It unites us as Christians
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “Whoever says ‘I believe’ says ‘I pledge myself to what we believe.’”  It goes on to describe the creeds as “symbols of faith”, comparing them to Greek “symbolon” . The symbolon were broken seals with halves kept by different people. By uniting them again, you could verify the identity of the other. [187-8] (We see the like today in “best friends” heart charms that two people might share.)
The Creed is our secret handshake. When the people beside you at Mass say “I believe”, they’re identifying themselves to you as fellow Christians.
2. It unites us in the message we spread
The Creed is a cheat-sheet for evangelism. It contains “in a few words the whole knowledge of the true religion contained in the Old and New Testaments.”  The Creed represents “what was of the greatest importance.. gathered from all the Scriptures, to present the one teaching of the faith in its entirety.”
The Creed is our elevator pitch. It’s the quick, complete answer to the question: “What do Catholics believe?” It’s also the answer to the question: “What else should we talk about?” when sharing your faith. It’s the launching-off point for a thousand discussions about the origins, details, and evidences for Catholic beliefs. You will not exhaust the Creed.
3. It unites us to Christ
Most importantly, the Creed unites us to Christ. He is the incarnate Word, so words are important. They is a weight to them and a real impact when the right ones are said.
When we receive Holy Communion, we do just that – we commune. We unite ourselves. If we are not united in belief, but we act like we are in union, we are lying.
As we must believe before we receive Christ, the creed is literally vital. We cannot live without it. (cf 1 Cor 11:29)
Really, Really Mean It
The Creed is our profession of faith, our symbol to each other, and a beautiful tool for engaging the world. Take the time to really learn it and understand what you’re saying and why. Here are a few resources:
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 1, Section 2: The Creeds
- The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 1, Section 2: The Profession of the Christian Faith
- The Creed: Gateway to Grace, Dr. Scott Hahn*
- Creed Overview, Video Catechism
- Professing the Creed for the Year of Faith, The Wine Dark Sea blog
“(M)an believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.” (Rom 10:10)
* The reader will notice that Dr. Hahn beat me to the “need for speed” pun. I humbly remind you that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Copyright © 2013, Joe Wetterling