What makes a "Christian" a real Christian? Can I just say I am one because I live in a country that is "more Christian" than any other religion? Can I say that I am a Christian because I believe that Jesus Christ existed? What if I throw in that I believe He is the Son of God who died and came back from the dead? Am I a Christian if I get baptized? What if I say I believe all of the above, more or less, AND I go to church EVERY Sunday morning unless I am sick? Okay, I've got it...I said some "magic words" that a pastor told me to say so that I wouldn't have to go to hell, a place of "fire and brimstone," that would do it...right? I could be a Christian because my parents are...my grandparents are....their parents before them...and even my aunts and uncles...
I heard something the other day on the radio that 93% of people in America say they are a "Christian." Interesting statistic I think...I wasn't paying attention to the report until I heard that statistic. I thought, "What? Seriously? That Many?" I am imagining a poll with fill in the bubble answers for a question like, "Which of these 4 religions/faiths/beliefs do you consider yourself most aligned with?" with answers like.... A) Voodoo; B) Satanist; C) Christian; and D) Neo-Nazis. How else could you get 93%? That statistic got me thinking that my definition of "Christian" is probably not the same as some people.
There is a song by a Christian artist named Matthew West that starts out like this, "I don't wanna go through the motions. I don't wanna go one more day without Your all-consuming passion inside of me." Do the words in that song sound like you? What about a song by my favorite band, Third Day, with words that go like this, "Please take from me my life when I don't have the strength to give it away to You, Jesus," does that sound like your heart's cry? Or what about the words from Phil Wickham's song, "Cannons," that go like this, "It's falling from the clouds, a strange and lovely sound, I hear it in the thunder and the rain. It's ringing in the skies like cannons in the night, the music of the universe plays. You are holy, great, and mighty; the moon and the stars declare who You are. I'm so unworthy, but still You love me...forever my heart will sing of how great You are." Do the lyrics from this song stir your heart to think about God?
I asked my daughter, Sophie, what it meant to be a Christian, and she first said, "having faith in God." Upon further probing into her generic answer, she finally told me, "well, it means that God lives through you." She didn't even realize how profound her words were; I think that I couldn't really describe it better than that. If God isn't living through you, then you might not have surrendered your life to Him. SURRENDER is the key, and that involves giving yourself back to God.
God created man for a relationship with him...go back to before the Garden of Eden when God said, "Let us make man in our image." That implies a likeness to God in order to have a relationship with Him. You know about Adam and Eve sinning by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil which made them realize (have knowledge) that their disobedience in eating from the tree was sin. That separated us, mankind, from a face to face relationship with God; we were not going to be taking walks side-by-side with God like Adam and Eve did. Fast forward thousands of years to Jesus's birth and the need for a perfect man to live and then make a sacrifice for sin so that a relationship with God could be restored. So...here we go...a person has to accept the restored relationship with God by believing that Jesus is THE way to do that...AND...surrender their life for God to use and guide. To have a relationship with THE GOD of universe directly infers submission to Him. The Bible says that even demons believe, and they tremble...they do not have a personal, eternal, healthy relationship with God because they are not submitted to His will for their lives.
Let's go back to the questions above and ponder the following resolutions. I cannot say I am a Christian solely based on my country of origin; that's like saying I am "more of a Christian" than someone from China or Iceland based on the geography of my birth. I am not a Christian just because I believe Jesus existed; if He existed but was not the perfect sacrifice, 100% God while 100% man, it would be the same as someone being a "Justinian" because they believe some guy named Justin existed. One would most likely say that if you believe that Jesus was God's son who died and came back to life and conquered death, that you'd be a Christian....make sure you took part in surrendering your life too. Going to church is good for learning about God and the Bible and for being with other Christians, but without the personal relationship with God...it is just "going through the motions." Repeating words without knowing what you are doing or because you want some insurance from going to hell is not authentic faith unless you couple your words with your heart, submitting to God's direction and guidance and lordship over your life. Same with baptism...without the heart change to seek God, the water does not possess power in and of itself. (I do think baptism is very important though.) Lastly, a Christian heritage and legacy are valuable and worth so much more than we can imagine, but a "personal" relationship is just that....personal, between you and God...not you, your parents, your Christian heritage, and God.
What would it be like if 93% of our country really were authentic Christians? Some might be saying to their computer screen "terrible" at the thought of more "Christians" than there are right now. Those attitudes are understandable considering the reputation Christians have for being judgmental and hypocritical. I don't want any more Pharisaical do-gooders around me either. If someone doesn't really want to live like Jesus and be like Jesus to others...why do so many people want to be a Christian? Do they really want to be one, or do they just want to "fit in" somewhere? Has Christianity become so benign that we cannot spot a poser or an impostor? Can you see the fruit of Christian principles or virtues coming from a life of a "Christian"? Look around you...93 out of every 100?
If you know me well, you are probably asking yourself, "what on earth happened to get Kari off on this tangent with such determined words?" Well, you'd be right...something did happen within my spirit this week when I overheard a conversation between 2 parents at the school where my kids go, a Christian school that I LOVE and appreciate. Nonetheless, one parent said, "I got my request granted so 'Susie' doesn't have to be in class with 'Bert' next year; he is such a troubled boy. I want her to have a wonderful #th grade year, far away from him and his inappropriate outbursts." To which the other parent replied, "Lucky...do you think if I went in and asked for the same thing, the principal would figure out that we talked? I want 'Bonnie' to have a great year too, and I am tired of hearing that kid every morning when I walk 'Bonnie' to class. Our kids deserve a calm year. They behave, and we pay enough to get what we want. Do you think I should wait a few days or longer before going into 'Mrs. Smith' to ask to be away from 'Bert' next year?" My mind was at a loss for words. I found my face contorting into a look of astonishment, slightly shaking my head as I walked behind the 2 parents. Shameful...I am so, so tired of this attitude in Christian schools, churches, Bible studies, outreaches, etc. Martin Luther says it very well, "the curses of the ungodly are more pleasing to God's ears than the hallelujahs of the pious."
What better place for "Susie" and "Bonnie" to practice being radical in their Christian faith and being like Jesus than in a Christian school where they would have other students and teachers to support and encourage them as they reach out and love a troubled student, one of "the least of these"?????? Those parents' conversation bothered me, still bothers me. I just never think of Jesus acting or talking like that.
Bruce Main in Why Jesus Crossed the Road:
"Beyond Rules and Toward Grace...church becomes like any other social group- providing identity within a community of peers with certain expectations and rules. Whenever we cross the road to someone who doesn't live by our group's standards- like a foulmouthed exotic dancer- our place in the group is questioned. Some might say, 'These people are dangerous. They could corrupt you.' But before we pretend she doesn't exist and hide behind our newspapers or keep our eyes glued to the games on our iPhones, perhaps we need to look more closely at Jesus. Jesus was never stopped in his tracks by what those who maintained the moral and religious codes in his community thought. Whether Jesus was deemed in or out with the religious establishment was of little consequence to him. Jesus' primary motivation was to demonstrate the love and acceptance of God t all people. His identity was defined by his relationship to God, not by the reactions of his peers. His freedom allowed him to challenge the teaching and beliefs that many held to be sacred. It allowed Him to cross the road." P.65
*My thought: Jesus chose the repentant foulmouthed, thieves, and adulterers for company over the religious leaders.
"The Danger of Indifference...Weisel (a Romanian Jew, Holocaust survivor) believes 'that the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it is indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it is indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it is indifference. Indifference is the enemy.' Indifference for Weisel means living in a state of not caring. Sometimes we have to cross the road to break our habits of callous indifference" P.122
*My interpretation: Don't be indifferent to little boys who have problems.
What makes a "Christian" a real Christian? Wanting a personal relationship with God, believing that can only happen because of Jesus, trusting in that saving grace, and letting God help you live like Jesus did by submitting to let Him guide you. Christianity isn't following rules or living in a "spiritual bubble." Christianity will cost something, and it could be hard. Remember not to build walls to close yourself off in a "box of Christianity-free Christianity." Remember Jesus standing by the woman in the Bible who was caught in adultry...John 8:6-7 says, "But Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, 'All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!'" Let's NOT throw stones at each other; instead let us show we are Christians by the LOVE that comes out of us toward others, even others who cause "problems."