What is a Christian?
These days, the answer to that question is pretty messy. Some say that’s the fault of media bias and hostile political agendas. Maybe that’s part of it. But there’s an even bigger problem.
Hop around from steeple to steeple asking that question. You’ll get several different answers:
A Christian is a person who
- goes to a Christian church
- goes to my Christian church
- goes to a Christian church of my denomination
- was baptised as an infant according to the requirements of my denomination
- believes Jesus is the Son of God
- has accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour
- has accepted Jesus and has repented of his/her sins
- has accepted Jesus, repented, and has been baptised according to the requirements of my denomination
- has accepted Jesus, repented, been baptised and lives a morally pure life
- has accepted Jesus, repented, been baptised, lives a morally pure life and believes in the inerrancy of the Bible
- has accepted Jesus , repented, been baptised, lives a morally pure life, believes in the inerrancy of the Bible and has received the Holy Spirit
- has accepted Jesus , repented, been baptised, lives a morally pure life, believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, has received the Holy Spirit and speaks in tongues
- etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Excuse me, but can I talk shop for a bit with my fellow brothers and sisters in the faith?
If we are ever to redeem the name of “Christian”, if we are to reclaim its meaning in terms of our best ideals instead of letting others define it in terms of our worst failures, if we are all finally to stand up and say, “This is what it means to be a Christian”…
Don’t we all kind of have to agree on what one is?
How about this: “A Christian is a person who follows the life, teachings and example of Jesus Christ”.
Now, I know that’s a pretty high-level overview. It doesn’t get into the theology of salvation, justification, sanctification or substitutionary propitiation. It doesn’t trouble itself with whether the rapture will occur pre- or post-tribulation. And it doesn’t begin to address how we awaken our fallen world to the dire consequences of the moral decadence of our post-modern culture.
But at least everyone can understand what it means.
“Follow the life, teachings and example of Jesus Christ.” Doesn’t that give us all enough to do without bickering over theological muckety-muck and trying to clean up everyone else’s backyard but our own?
It would surprise many Christians to discover that some who would not claim to be followers of Jesus still have a great admiration for his life, teachings and example. Many see him as a wise man. Some even a prophet. And they all connect with his kindness and compassion.
You know what? That gives us some common ground on which to meet.
I think we’d have a lot better luck engaging the world as Christians if the conversation was about the life of Jesus rather than who’s right and who’s wrong. I mean, how can we even pretend to have the answers to mankind’s deepest questions when we can’t doff our denominational duds long enough to agree on the simplest, most basic things?
Like, “What is a Christian?”