It made me think.
I mean, at one level, the definition of a Christian would seem to be very simple: one who follows Christ. But is that the sum and substance of what it means to be a Christian? I mean, I know of quite a few folks who follow Jesus, but they are not professing Christians. There are may who profess to be Christians--they say they follow Jesus, but they do not worship or receive the sacraments.
And it goes further.
In the intramural debates within Christianity, there are many who point fingers accusingly in our culture. Those on the "right" hand side of the squabble point to those on the "left" hand side and say, "You aren't following Jesus because your morals are out of whack! You support gay marriage; the ordination of practicing homosexuals; legalized abortion; the legalization of marijuana; banning prayer from schools; the promotion of safe sex; and so on and so forth. You are not true Christians!!!"
Those on the "left" are just as vociferous toward those on the "right." "You aren't following Jesus because you don't care about justice. You care more about your pocket book and supporting the rich and do not want to fight for health care; to ensure those in poverty are not kept there; to end racism, sexism, ageism, and whatever other ism is out there! You don't care about the environment! You don't care about the structures that cause poverty! You are not true Christians!!!"
The truth of the matter is--no one follows Jesus correctly. No one. None live up to His standard, and the self-righteous finger pointing that we do only serves as an illustration of this fact. When we, as Christians, act in such a fashion, are we no different than the disciples who argued about who should sit at Jesus' right and left hand as they walked along the road? Jesus had a few words of chastisement for such behavior. Yet, we cannot seem to escape it. We cannot seem to get passed arguing about who follows Jesus "better."
And so when we try to say a Christian is one who follows Jesus, we inevitably find ourselves in a conundrum. For who really follows Jesus by Jesus' standards?
But that is just the tip of the proverbial ice berg. There is even more to this because there are quite a few doctrinal concerns to deal with as well when it comes to defining what it means to be a Christian which are not tied to simply following the commands Jesus offers.
- Can a person be defined as a follower of Jesus--strictly speaking--who does not believe in the Trinity?
- Can a person be defined as a follower of Jesus--strictly speaking--who does not believe in Jesus' divinity?
- Can a person be defined as a follower of Jesus--strictly speaking--who does not believe the Bible is inerrant or infallible?
- Can a person be defined as a follower of Jesus--strictly speaking--who does not believe in the resurrection?
- Can a person be defined as a follower of Jesus--strictly speaking--who is not baptized?
- Can a person be defined as a follower of Jesus--strictly speaking--who rejects the miraculous?
- Can a person be defined as a follower of Jesus--strictly speaking--who rejects substitutionary atonement?
As I reflected upon such things, I realized how much emphasis was placed on how WE acted and what WE believed. The definition of a Christian centered on us, but Christianity isn't about us, is it? Christianity isn't about our actions and our beliefs. It's about God's action through Jesus Christ. It's about God's grace bestowed upon the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
Shouldn't the definition of a Christian center upon God and His work and not our own?
Using this as the starting point, I propose the following:
A Christian is one whom God views as redeemed by what Jesus has done.
I invite your thoughts.