Yet, another installment in my brief series, “Will the Real…Please Stand Up”. Let’s examine, quickly, what Christians and Christianity have become, versus what a Christian should be. I have some years of observation, having been a Christian for over 35 years, seeing what makes a “good” Christian or a “bad” Christian, as well as gaining some understanding how people can struggle with issues, regardless of their spiritual standing. Ultimately, the Scriptures will stand as to the answers of these thoughts.
What is a Christian? Let’s go back to the 1st century Church, even the first “few years” Church. They were not even called Christians at first. They were considered part of The Way (right, that was not just some 1970’s hip name for a modern translation Bible). They were not called Christians until some years later in Antioch as the movement had grown. Some say that the term was originally meant as a mockery, with people saying, “They’re acting like little Christs!” But, the more popular notion is that the term was simply labeled for followers of Christ. No matter what, being called a Christian was certainly no shame to these people, many of whom gave their lives for being one.
This was not a religious movement, at all. It was not about being part of a club, joining an organization or bearing a popular title. They lived lives set apart, but not separated. They did not go to church, they were the Church. They did not consider their lives so important as to “shrink from death”. They supported one another (emotionally, physically and financially as there was need), prayed with and for one another and were not ashamed to love their neighbor and tell them the Good News. These people did not back down and would not deny knowing Christ. Many of them (besides the original disciples/apostles) got to meet Jesus personally or at least heard Him speak and teach. Many also witnessed the miracles He performed. There was that group from the Upper Room who experienced the power of His presence as His Spirit revealed His power in each of them.
Some say that Jesus came to establish Christianity. Well, no, He didn’t. His purpose was not to start a new religion, organization or way of living. He did not come to give people a list of precepts for holy living, or philosophies for better understanding of life. Jesus did not come to show bad people how to be good or to establish a new order of living standards. He didn’t even challenge the paganism of the ruling Roman government nor did He make issue of specific sin (with the exception of pride and being judgmental, two things the Pharisees, who should have known better, were riddled with). Not once did He tell anyone, “Stop being a thief, stop being a whore, stop being a homosexual. Repent of these things and then you can be right with God.”
No. Instead He bid people to follow Him. Once people did that, then the changes came. His mission was not to tell people that in order to be with Him, they must change. His mission was, “to seek and to save that which was lost.” He had compassion for the hungry and hurting. He desired to redirect those who were deceived. He came to make a way to the Father – a way that has been severed by our sin. By bridging that gap, through His death and resurrection, people now have the opportunity to come directly to God, acknowledging they are a sinner and that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice is the only way they can come to God. From that point, changes begin. Those changes are the ones that some people demand in order to get right with God in the first place. Jesus welcomes us just as we are and then the clean up process begins.
What do we see in the Church today? It would appear the higher emphasis is on joining a church, being part of a denomination, following a set of Christian rules and/or just being part of the Christian “club”. Then, we see Christians who are out to make everyone else follow the mandates they feel people are supposed to follow. They have gone so far as to ask for legislation to make society more “Christian”, claiming that just because there were a handful of Christians in the founding of our great nation and that they were guided by many scriptural principles, that this was supposed to be a “Christian nation”. Really? That would mean that in order to be part of this country, one had to be a Christian – which is furthest from the truth.
People see more of what the Church is against than what we are for. Many people think we are anti-this or that, wanting to establish rules and regulations. They clearly see the hatred and judgment that comes with this sort of action. Too many in the Church are more interested in inviting people to come “to church”, telling them how they are going to hell and why, or telling them how they need to live a certain way, than they are in sharing the Gospel.
There is another set of Christians…the cultural Christians. They call themselves Christian because that is what their parents were. They grew up attending church. They are proud to be part of the denomination that their parents and grandparents had been part of. They know how to live moral lives, can quote scriptures and have a number of hymns and other spiritual songs memorized. Unfortunately, they are living a Christian life and are part of the Christian culture, but have not given their lives to Jesus. This presents itself in their lives – living morally does not prove salvation. Being concerned about God, what He wants, what His will is and a deep desire for others to know Him – these are some good indicators.
What does a real Christian look like? Well, on the surface, no different. He or she should be the same co-worker, student, boss, homemaker, lawyer, doctor or person on the street as one would expect of anyone else. Maybe a bit different, though. Our standards should be higher when it comes to working and doing a good job, as we are reminded that we work for the Lord. Our speech should lack the complaining, negative tone which is prevalent in the world. Our attitude toward others should be the same attitude God has had for all of us…that of love, patience and tolerance (Romans 2). I say, “should be”, as I know we are all a work in progress (thank God for His grace).
A real Christian is not overly concerned with a specific denomination, as she is concerned for fellowship and spreading the Gospel. She will not always quote her pastor or a bylaw of her denomination or church as much as she wants to live out scripture and see scripture fulfilled. The real Christian will seek the Lord’s will for him/herself and desire to hear from Him. The real Christian will be consumed with how to be more like Christ rather than how to be a good rule follower. It is about following the Ruler more than following the rules.
We should be about shining our light, not shining it in peoples’ eyes (see previous post about Light). We are to be the salt of the Earth, not letting the Earth attempt to flavor the salt (got a post about Salt, too). We are to love one another, love our neighbors and, first and foremost, love God. We should not be about spreading or gaining recruits for Christianity as much as seeking out those who need to know about God’s love for them.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind…love your neighbor as yourself.”
Upon these, the real Christian will stand.