What does it mean to be a Christian?

4 04 2008

This is a question I find myself asking a lot more. In short its something I’m wrestling with at the moment. I guess over the years the word has come to mean so many different things that it now has its own persona. Ok so maybe personas is a better word.

There is  the group of “God hates Fags” Christians in America and the Homosexual Anglican priests. There are people who say they are Christians but only go to Church on Christmas and Easter and, then there are other Christians who spend so much time in Church that you would think they lived there.  There are Christians who take a vow of poverty and believe any connection with money is a direct link to the devil. But there are also Christians who run Churches of 10,000 people. They own expensive BMW’s and travel with Bodyguards. This is only scratching the surface, because there are littleraly thousands of different denominations of churches, all teaching something slightly different about what it means to be a Christian. Who is right and who is wrong? We can’t all be right at the same time can we? Is the distinction even that simple and does it matter?

Interestingly the word “Christian” only appears in the bible a few times. Five if you count chapter and paragraph headings and only in the New Testament. During the Roman times Christians were called Christianoi or Christianos. Terms used to denote a political sect that was in opposition to Rome. People wildly rejected it, but the Roman empire underwent a lot of changes. In the time of the apostle Paul, Christians were being heavily persecuted. Especially under the Emperor Nero. But three hundred years later you couldnt be the Roman emperor without being a Christian. Thats a massive change in my books. If the entire Roman empire underwent such a change whats gone wrong today?

In order to come to some sort of conclusion I think there needs to be a separation between personality differences and doctrines. What do I mean by that? Well, are our differences simply stylistic ones or are there key teachings in dispute that have lead to these differences. Have we majored on minors and created holy huddles where no one is allowed to have any problems? Have we become too permissive that we dont look any different to any other social organisation?

Lets take the “God hates fags” group of Christians. Clearly the Bible doesnt approve of Homosexuality. The book of Leviticus calls it an “Abomination”.  Paul talks about Men burning in their lust for one another and women exchanging their natural use for what is not natural. He is speaking of their sexuality and openly condemming it. But can you really say God hates those people because of their sin? (Lets not get into salvation talk here, lets focus on whether God hates people who sin, not whether or not these people are saved or not.)  Ultimately in Gods eyes Sin is Sin. If you steal, lie, or cheat  you are just as guilty as a homosexual. The book of Romans tells us that “All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God”. So really in Gods eyes there is no difference between sinners. But then there is the other side of the coin. There are now Homosexual Bishops and Priests springing up all over in the Anglican Church. Surely you can’t stand up and profess to be a Christian while openly doing something so against the word of God. Dont get me wrong, we all make mistakes, and everyone sins. But to openly flout your sin as OK with God, is completely unbiblical. One group of people might be technically correct, but their single issue fanaticism has driven them to new heights of legalism. One groups lack of doctrinal insight has lead them believe that everything is OK , God loves you no matter what and you can do whatever you want, even if some people think its wrong. This group is adrift on a sea of licenciousness.

Ultimately we all drift between these two extremes. What we need is the middle road that lives life in light of the Grace of God, given to us through Jesus. I’m not pretending to even know what that means to live that out yet. I’m still working it out. I can see how some people have been put off Christianity by what they’ve seen people do in the name of God, Church and Christianity. I think this is because Christianity has been presented as a law book, or code of ethics. Churches are preaching self help sermons  that sound more like the “7 Habits of Highly effective Christians”. What we need is a fresh revelation or understanding of 2 key ideas:

1. If you are a Christian or saved or whatever you want to call it, you are now a Son/Daughter of God. You have been adopted into Gods family. Ultimately it was God who chose you, adopted you, clothed you and continues to sustains you.  You have been totally forgiven for every sin, past present and future. It Gods job to convict you of sin in your life. Too many Christians dont realise this, and spend their lives trying to earn their sonship. That seems kind of stupid doesnt it? You could do a lot of stupid things to your parents but you always be their son/daughter and they would always be your parents. Its a relationship based on (re)birth not works.

2. All of what we have is because of the sovereign grace of God. When (if) you read the bible and pray and go to Church – are you doing it out a fear that if you dont you’re not a Christian? OR are you doing it because you love Jesus and want to know Him.
To try and insinuate that what Jesus did on the cross was somehow not enough and that i need to be working hard in order to keep my salvation is ludicrous. Ultimately that is NOT Christianity – its Islam !

These are some of the major points we need to emphasise in our Churches and gatherings today. This is the good news. To start with any other foundation is just not good news.

Again I want to stress that we need to work these truths out together as the body of Christ. They arent things to beat each other up over. Remember that if everything we have is given solely by the Grace of God, then we need to show that same Grace to everyone else. If we dont we havent understood it.

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