I was reading through the transcript of a live chat on the Washington Post and I found myself getting frustrated with what seemed like the lack of answers being provided. Even the answers that were seemed rather weak and it got me thinking that maybe we as a nation are very confused about faith and religion. So, this week, I’m focusing on the word Christian. Sadly, it’s another word that has lost its meaning from over-saturation. Like over-kneaded dough, we have stretched its meaning again and again until the connection between word and meaning have broken completely. So, I ask, what does it mean to be Christian?
Literally, the word means “a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ.” However, I would argue that today it means nothing more than someone who’s been to a church more than once and recognizes the name Jesus. I mean, just look around at all of us “Christians” burning abortion clinics and shooting the doctors, protesting military funerals and regularly committing every sin imaginable from Monday to Saturday. Sunday, however, typically being reserved for “atonement” by attending a church service…or just sleeping off the hangover.
For those of you becoming indignant right about now, let me say that I am not innocent. I lived this lifestyle most notably in my later high school years running from my parents’ separation. I didn’t want to deal with the implications of that on my life. Much less did I want to go toe-to-toe with a God who I did not know, but with whom I was flat-out pissed. I know this “Christian life” all too well. Now, I’m not saying that I no longer sin, as that’s as far from the truth as can be. However, now that I have become more acquainted with the God I claim to follow by labeling myself Christian, I do sin less than back then. All that to say, I’m not trying to cast stones here.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” — John 13: 34–35
First of all, if God is love and Jesus was love in flesh, we as true Christians are to love likewise (1 John 4:8; John 1:14; 1 John 4:11). I really don’t think this needs explanation. However, this love does not include making love outside of marriage. If we are truly following Jesus in loving one another, this means…actually, a lot. However, to keep it simple, this means that we don’t seek to injure others. We’re not looking to gain an advantage over others. More importantly, its all about others. First has to come God, then our neighbors (who are everyone else) and finally us.
Next, being a Christian is about the Bible, nothing more and nothing less. If we are adding to Jesus, then we become Pharisees creating for ourselves some false cloak of piety. In reality, we are the emperor who wears no clothes. If we are to take away from the Bible, then we are merely licentious and falling in worship of some lesser earthly pleasure, be it sex, money, drugs…and the list goes on.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:17–20
Finally, as I stated earlier, it’s not about you. I can’t stress this enough. Being a Christian is about the One for whom the faith is named. Your body, all that is within it and everything done with it, is to be a living sacrifice for the God of love (Romans 12:1). Every breath, blink, flinch should be all for God whose story, His good, perfect and pleasing will, in which we should be striving to take a protagonist role (Romans 12:2). Yes, you play a role in this story, but you are far from the main character.
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” — Romans 12:9–21
Christian, let us be characterized by this love for others which overflows from our love for our God and Savior. Let us be consistent in watering our souls with His truths so that we may remember in season and out of season how we can best show this love to others (2 Timothy 4:2). Let us also be constant in our prayer in the Spirit that God may hear us and answer (Luke 21:34; Jeremiah 29:12–13). There is simply no other way that we can pretend to follow the will of the One we serve unless we are constantly seeking it. So, do you?