What is a Christian?
All of us have different thoughts that spring to mind. Some cultures would say that a Christian is a white privileged colonist who forces you to act, walk and talk just like them. Others would say that Christians are people who go to church every week. Some would say that Christians are judgemental people who live according to a rule book.
Last week a neighbour of mine asked me: “What does it mean to be a Christian?”
To me, and this is how I answered, being a Christian is a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus has to invade our personality. Salvation comes by surrendering to Christ and allowing him to invade and permeate your being, saturating your life and changing you into a new person. It is not enough to just believe that he is the son of God. We must become like him.
Jesus said that his disciples will be known by their love (Jn 13:35).
“If conversion to Christianity makes no improvement in a man’s outward actions – if he continues to be just a snobbish or spiteful or envious as he was before – then I think we must suspect that his ‘conversion’ was largely imaginary.”
Unfortunately, institutionalised Christianity has settled for rules, rituals, and tribal belonging, losing sight of the transformative way of faith.
For centuries, Christianity has been presented as a ‘system of beliefs’. “That system of beliefs has supported a wide range of unintended consequences, from colonialism to environmental destruction, inferiority of women to stigmatization of LGBT people, anti-Semitism to Islamophobia, clergy pedophilia to white privilege” (source).
What if Christians actually saw following Christ as a just and generous way of life?
Unfortunately some Christians have portrayed Christianity as an exclusive club of ‘us and them’. Instructing: these are the hoops you must jump through, this is what you must do to belong. Portraying God as a Santa who showers blessings and privileges upon those who are a part of the in group.
‘”Jesus did not come to create a country club or a tribe of people who could say, “We’re in and you’re out. We’ve got the truth and you don’t.” Jesus came to reveal something that was true everywhere, for everyone, and all the time”‘ (Rohr).
What if Christians stopped defining Christianity as a set of rules and doctrines and actually became known by their love?
When you read the Gospels you see God as one who “eats with sinners,” welcomes outsiders in, and forgives even while being rejected, tortured, and killed. Jesus taught that God was to be found in self-giving service rather than in power and domination.
“What would it mean for Christians to understand, experience, and embody God as the loving, healing, reconciling Spirit in whom all creatures live, move, and have their being?”(Rohr)
Jesus said that we would be known by our love. He also taught that a tree is known by its fruit.
How do you recognise a Christ follower? They taste good. They are delicious and life-giving. They nurture and nourish.
If a tree produces apples you know it’s an apple tree. If a tree produces lemons it is a lemon tree. What fruit are we growing and feeding to those around us.
‘The Fruit of the Holy Spirit’ is a biblical term that sums up nine characteristics of the person of the Holy Spirit. A Christ follower is someone who has the Holy Spirit living inside of them. The book of Galatians names the fruit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
These are the fruits that we measure our lives by.
We need to ask, what do we taste like. What do people encounter when they come in contact with us?
Jesus taught us how to live well with each other. He was concerned with equality, he believed that ‘everything’ belongs and that everyone is equal. He was also very concerned with producing fruit.
“As Christians we should concentrate on issues such as fighting poverty, caring for the environment, advancing peace, promoting strong families, and supporting a consistent ethic of life, all viewed as critical moral and biblical values” (Tony Campolo).
The biblical picture of Shalom is how a community of Christians should live. Shalom is where every person has enough, it is a community where everyone belongs and where every person has the right to flourish.
Jesus said that the person who shows mercy to his neighbour is the person that shall inherit eternal life. This person is a co-heir with Christ, a child of God.
Luke 10:25-37New Living Translation (NLT)
The Most Important Commandment
One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”
“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
Parable of the Good Samaritan
Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins,telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.
Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog. Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on-line since the first of February 2015. Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity. For the blog to continue I need your support. You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more. Every bit helps.
Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.
Thanks for considering.