Christian? What's that?

The question of who is a Christian is a good one, I think. I have struggled long with it. In America, at least, the word is so broadly used as to be meaningless. I have had folks tell me that they were Christians, of course, because they weren't Jews or Muslims or any of the others, so what else would they be? Others say they attend church more or less regularly and are nice people who don't do nasty things, so they are Christians. Still others say they believe in Jesus, and therefore are Christians, though they are not part of a local church and their lives are unremarkable.


There are so many people making so many claims for such a myriad of reasons, all the while living lives that are indistinguishable from anyone else, "Christian" or not, that it seems to me someone must not be living in the real world. Or perhaps they are just flat out lying.

I have been thinking for a long time about this, mostly from wanting to be on solid ground if I publicly identify myself as a Christian. I want to be consistent. And the outcome for me is that the word means little, and even has some strong negative connotations, as well. So I prefer not to use it for myself.

I have been watching different groups I have encountered who call themselves Christians. Some are from other countries and cultures. And - if this were a scientific experiment, which it is not - conveniently bring along a control group. Alongside the professing Christian population in some of these groups are others from the same culture who are from other traditions: Buddhists, Muslims and more. Still other groups include the members of a local church. In the latter, a woman once told me that "every person who is in regular attendance at this church is a Christian." Oh? A young woman, a single mom struggling financially, needed legal advice. She went to one of the pillars of said church, a woman lawyer, and asked for help. The reply? "Honey, you couldn't even begin to afford me." A Christian response?

So what's the answer? Does saying it's so make it so? Is everyone a Christian who claims to be a Christian? I will argue that we can call ourselves anything we choose, but our saying it has absolutely no bearing on the truth of the claim. Neither does regular attendance at a church service mean anything. We can live in the church building, and be unsaved. Someone said, "Going to a church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you a car."

As the "proof of the pudding is in the eating," the proof of the claim to Christianity is in the living. How do we live? How do we treat others? Not just others we like and approve of, but how do we treat those we dislike or consider in some way beneath us?

Jesus said the world would know we are his disciples by the love we have for each other, the same love he has for us (John 13:34, 35). When we are self-righteous or judgmental, we have no credibility with the world, and perhaps not with God, either.

What about feuds and grudges among us? Do we forgive each other? Do we forgive even those we consider unworthy of our forgiveness?

A very disturbing statement in the gospels has Jesus telling us that we have to forgive each other. That if we don't forgive others, he said, the Father will not forgive us (Matthew 6:14, 15).

Wow.

That stops me cold, because, you see, I am one of the "bad people." I am one of the sinners of the world. I shudder to think of all the reprehensible things I have done in my life. I desperately need God's forgiveness. Without it, I am utterly lost. I have no hope.

And so I must forgive. I must forgive totally and generously, as the Father forgives me.

Because the sinners of the world and the bad people we know are precisely those for whom Jesus came. They are the ones he hung out with and for whom he gave his life.

And those who are "good people," who are happy with what they see in the mirror, apparently don't need a savior. The fact is, Jesus didn't come to good people, but to the ones who just couldn't get it right in life. The screw-ups. The losers.

The good folks, the anointed few, seem to be left out, from what Jesus seemed to be saying. He didn't come for the well, but the sick, right? (Matthew 9:12)

So, those who refuse to forgive, who sit in judgment of others, and who are satisfied with their own righteousness, should remember one thing: You cannot live that way and be a follower of Jesus. You can't have those attitudes and know Jesus and truthfully take for yourself the name Christian. You can't live in blatant disobedience and hope to have God's blessing.

It's good to consider the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15), and ask ourselves which son we would be? Because the parable is about us: you and me.

Is a Christian one illustrated by the younger son, the runaway? Or is a Christian more like the elder son, the one who always did his duty and never challenged the father?

Which am I? Which are you?


10 Comments

a christian is someone who beleivesbin the trinity and the nicence creed and or aposteles creed i am a christian there are also many different denomination
baptist menonite anglican its like breeds of dogs not to compare us to dogs

Josh,

Does your definition include knowing Jesus and following him?

Many times I ask people if they are Christians and I mostly here the same response; "I believe in God". Yes, I can see most of us believe in God even satin. However, there a few things that is important to know when declaring yourself as a Christian. Our Lord and Savior asks us to become his disciples and spread the word of his second coming. It's important to have a daily relationship with our living God.

Back in July 2009, I decided to build a patio and study the Bible so that I may have a personnal relationship and knowledge of our Lord. I use to go to church frequently and became baptised and felt as though I was putting my part as a Christian. Guess what I didn't even begin to scratch the surface.

The more I read the closer I got to our Lord and Savior and that's when the veils lifted.

I began to see this world in a different light and I had understanding of things I frequently questioned. I came to realize that if you do want to live in the kingdom of Heaven then we as True Christians must completely put our trust in our Lord because he is our true father.

We do not enter the Kindom of Heaven through works but through Faith. I placed my life in his hands and since then I feel completely at peace. I continue to place Jesus first I read daily or speak to him daily.

Since then I began to notice my enemies fall and he continues to show me his Loving Grace.

I pray that All people take up the cross and develop a daily spiritual relationship with our Lord so that they too can have complete peace.

God Bless Everyone

Hello Shirley, I find it strange you believe one goes to Heaven by faith but NOT through works. Are you saying that obeying the Ten Commandments is optional. Does your Bible say that, "We see then brethren we are justified by WORKS, and NOT by faith alone"? Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?

Michael,

Not sure if Shirley will respond or not, but I find it equally strange that you think works are a part of our justification. You quote James, and both misunderstand him and overlook about 400 other verses in the NT. The many say that we are saved by grace through faith alone. Paul says it's either grace or works, but it can't be both. But what about James? Read it more carefully. He agrees with Paul, that it's grace through faith in Jesus alone, and then he spends some time telling us what this "saving" faith looks like. It's not an intellectual assent. The faith that saves compels us to action. The faith that saves produces works, as evidence of the depth of the faith.

the thing that gets me is how theres so many different churches anglican,protisent,babtist 1 faith more views then you can shake a stick at

Yeah, it seems like a lot. But it sort of reminds me of ice cream: lots of different flavors, but it's all ice cream. The different "flavors" of Christianity have far more in common than what separates them.

the one thing that impressed me as i begin to study. was when i found out that is was the world that began to call them christians but seems like today people use the name as a title they give themselves! back then it was a dangerous thing it meant possiable persecution or even death! in proverbs it states not to praise yourselves but let your praise come from others. as for the different "flavors" comment that just really shows how many are true believers because unity is one thing satin agressively attacks us on! the word states that if one believes in his heart that jesus is the son of god and that he died on the cross for the sins of the world and the father raised him on the third day and you confess this fact before men you shall be saved! if we could unite on this core issue and not focus on our theological differances it would be a differant picture.

Chris,
Thanks for sharing your comments. You are correct that "Christian" was once a derogatory term, but in most of the world, to be labeled a Christian is still an invitation to persecution and often death. In many parts of the world, there are few if any "Christians in name only." If that were to occur in America, the number of people calling themselves Christian would surely plummet.

A very good post. This post sums up for me exactly what this topic is focused on and some of the key benefits that can be created from knowing about it like you. A friend once remarked that you have a totally different mind-set when you do something for real as opposed to when you're simply toying with it. In the case of this kind of topic, I believe you are taking, or start to go for, a more professional as well as thorough approach to what and how you're writing, which in turn helps you to carry on and get better and help others who don't know everything about what you have shared here. Thank you.

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  • le mariage said:
      A very good post. This post sums up for me exactly what this topic is ...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Chris, Thanks for sharing your comments. You are correct that "Christi...
  • chris gibbs said:
       the one thing that impressed me as i begin to study. was when i foun...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Yeah, it seems like a lot. But it sort of reminds me of ice cream: lot...
  • kendell said:
      the thing that gets me is how theres so many different churches anglic...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Michael, Not sure if Shirley will respond or not, but I find it equal...
  • Michael D said:
      Hello Shirley, I find it strange you believe one goes to Heaven by fai...
  • Shirley said:
      Many times I ask people if they are Christians and I mostly here the s...
  • Larry Baden said:
      Josh, Does your definition include knowing Jesus and following him?...
  • josh said:
      a christian is someone who beleivesbin the trinity and the nicence cre...

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