Christian

What makes someone a Christian?  As a pre-teen I remember an “End-Times” speaker coming to our town and talking about how all the planets would line up in 1982.  He speculated that this would signal the beginning of the end or the start of the “tribulation.”  I was so afraid that I would be left behind when Jesus came to “rapture” the real Christians that I went forward every night to accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.  Becoming a Christian had something to do with praying the right set of words.  Confession of sin and asking Jesus to sit on the throne of my heart needed to be included in the prayer.   I kept going forward every night because I wasn’t sure I prayed the prayer correctly.

The fear of not having done it right haunted me for years.  More than once I snuck out of my bedroom at 2 AM to check on my parents to make sure they hadn’t been raptured away.  It took years to realize that the rapture theology that consumed my youth was a non-biblical scam made up to sell books.  There has been much freedom in discovering that Christianity is so much more than a way to avoid “The Tribulation.”

This journey into a new understanding of Christianity has only intensified the “what makes someone a Christian?” question.  During Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus in John 3 there is a fascinating conversation about entering into a process of rebirth.  It would seem that Christianity has something to do with resetting, rebooting and starting over with a clean slate.  In Matthew 25 Jesus tells a strange story about sheep and goats.  Eventually the sheep are invited into the kingdom of God and not because they prayed the right prayer.  There is no indication that they ever went forward at church and accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.  They are invited in because of how they lived their lives in service to others.

The more I read scripture the more I am convinced that Christianity has everything to do with who we are and how we live our lives.  There is a song from my youth that says well what I am trying to say, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

There are still well-meaning people who want a Christianity defined by rules and formulas.  The reasons for this grow out of the best of intentions.  The problem is that the God of Scripture has no interest in rules and formulas, no matter how well-intentioned they are.  The closest Scripture comes to a formula is love, radical and unconditional love.

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6 Comments

Filed under A New Kind of Christian, acts 10, Bearing Witness, Christian, faith, Fear, fear-based decisions, kingdom of heaven, love, Love Wins, New Testament, religion, religious system, sinner

6 responses to “Christian

  1. Glenn

    Hey Glenn,

    What does unconditional love look like? What are the practices associated with it? Is there any other kind of love than unconditional love?

    glenn

    • Glenn

      The snarky answer might be conditional love…in all honesty I am a leaner when it comes to unconditional love. Just when I think “unconditional” has been maxed out God pushes the limits or my limits. As for practices…anytime I move towards exclusion, I try to start with the assumption that the impulse is dangerously wrong regardless of the reasons – theological or moral.

      • Glenn

        i’m thinking that using unconditional-conditional binary as an adjective for love causes quite a bit of confusion. biblical angle seems to be more related to the terms you used in the reply: unsurpassing/enduring-limited.

  2. Many churches have given “formulas” for salvation that are too easy (the sinner’s prayer, or “confession” of Christ). And Scripture does point to love and service–to how we live our lives–as essential. Yet Scripture also includes numerous “rules,” and as disciples of Jesus, we give special importance to his commands, such as loving enemies (a form of unconditional love?). Jesus’ life and teaching also show that such love can include strong words against what evil people do, and what God will do to them in the end (a form of conditional love?).

    • Glenn

      There is a quote often attributed to C.S.Lewis, it goes something like this, “In the end there are two types of people, those who say to God thy will be done and those to whom God says thy will be done.” I point this out because in the final analysis it is not God it is not about God doing bad things to humanity, but rather humanity choosing to do bad things to itself (oneself).

  3. AskOdie

    Great blog post Glenn! Defining the characteristics of Christianity/Christians can be a polarizing conversation. I appreciate you sharing your perspective!

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