What does it mean to be a Christian? This is something that can often be difficult to put into words, and in truth is better answered in the way Christians live their lives. I hope these few short paragraphs will provide some insight as well…
I am a Christian. It does not mean I am perfect or better than anyone else; in truth, I am far from perfect (1). What it does mean is that I have chosen to accept God’s forgiveness for my sins, a gift that I’ve neither earned nor deserve, but that He has given me in spite of my unworthiness. I make it my daily goal not to sin or live a sinful life, because that is what I am called to do (2). Learning to ask for forgiveness comes with the territory.
Though I may not always agree with the behavior, choices or lifestyle of others I am called to love and accept all people for who they are (3). I make a distinction however between loving a person and loving their behavior. This is because I also do not subscribe to moral relativism, which is the notion that people determine their own right and wrong, or that right and wrong cannot be objectively determined. God is the author of truth and we, as His creation, have only been empowered to search for rather than invent truth (4). This being the case it is not my place to redefine or reinvent what God himself has already deemed right and wrong. Nor do I have the right to skew His words or alter the teachings of Christ to fit the popular moral trends of the day.
I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and died for me – not because I’ve earned it, but because he loves me, just as he loves and died for you (5). There is no other way to salvation, which scripture defines as eternal life, except through Jesus Christ (6).
I don’t believe that going to church would make me any more righteous than those who don’t attend church. Attending church is just another way of being closer to God, to discover how to better live one’s life, as well as an opportunity to fellowship with other Christians. The Apostles of Jesus Christ encouraged believers to gather* in this way, and for good reason (7).
I may not have a good answer for every question you throw at me, but will do my best to answer those I am able. There are some questions however that God has seemingly chosen not to answer; it is in these cases that I defer to Him in faith alone. For instance, I will never understand why the innocent are so often made to suffer in this world, but take it on faith that God has allowed this for a purpose beyond my ability to comprehend. God is not the source of suffering. He is however the ultimate source of comfort, peace and even – occasionally – joy in the midst of suffering (8).
I hope that you will consider opening up a Bible with the genuine desire to hear and understand God’s message to mankind. It is a moving and wonderful message that speaks to God’s unwavering love for you. Might I suggest starting with one of the four gospels of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke or John.
One of my mandates as a Christian is to Love those with whom I disagree, those who mistreat me and even those who hate me simply because of what I believe (9). When I manage to do this it is not because it comes naturally, but because that is the way Christ lived his life and requires that I live mine. Rest assured this is not an easy position to take, but it’s the right one, and I only hope that I succeed in it more often than I fail.
I realize that being a Christian probably won’t make me popular (10). Nonetheless I accept this outcome, for obedience to God’s Word (the Bible) must always take precedence over social status. It is rarely easy to say or take a stand on that which is unpopular. Many of Christ’s followers have faced challenges and hardships on account of their decision to follow Him. Others have suffered persecution, and many have been (and continue to be) martyred for their faith. But because Christ sacrificed himself to save me, for better or worse, these are the burdens I must be prepared to bear (11). Should I find myself trying to please the world more than my Heavenly Father then it is time for me to reevaluate my actions, correct them, and ask for His forgiveness. Since becoming a Christian I have already had to do this…plenty.
I believe the Bible was recorded by men who were pre-ordained to do so, whose words were given to them by the Holy Spirit. That makes the Bible, in its original form, the infallible Word of God (12). It is God’s message to mankind about who He is, why He came, and how we should live our lives. It is a precious gift that I cherish and read, or should be reading often.
I try to make it my goal to consider all issues, whether political, social or otherwise as objectively as possible, but recognize that God (through His Word) probably already has something to say on the matter. In many, though not all cases, the Word of God is the final authority on political, social and other issues.
Science and the so-called “laws” of science will always have their place in this world and in this vast, amazing universe we occupy. They are by no means a hindrance to my faith for God created all things, including heaven and earth, and all the laws that govern the universe around us (13). I believe that the genuine, objective study of our natural world produces far more compelling evidence for the existence of God than it does for His non-existence.
I am a Christian, a hopeful follower of Jesus Christ, a child of the one and only living God, and an imperfect person in so many ways. I thank our Father in Heaven that he sent his Son to die on the cross for my sins, giving me the hope of eternal life in spite of myself (14). If you would like to share in this gift all you have to do is ask (15). The specific words are not what matter, only the prayer that comes from the heart…
“Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive me for my sins. I acknowledge the gift of salvation brought by the sacrifice of your Son Jesus Christ. I want to follow you now in this life, and be with you in heaven when I leave this world and this earthly body. Thank you that you love me unconditionally and teach me to love others unconditionally. Please help me to live as Christ lived, with boldness and humility that I may grow closer to you. In Your name I pray, Amen.”
What next? Seek out other Christians, especially those who have endured trials. Then learn to discern between the good ones and the bad ones. Start weeding out things (or people) that don’t sit right with your spirit…and prepare for many difficulties that are surely to come. Try to learn more about who Christ really was, why he came, and what you think He (and no one else) would want you to do with your life and talents. Hint: It won’t always involve sequestering yourself into the ‘safe’ and partitioned sanctuary of some American-themed Christian sub-culture.
* The first Christians didn’t attend ‘church’ as we know it today. They gathered together in small groups in people’s homes, much like Chinese Christians have done in the 20th and 21st Century.
(1) Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8; Mark 7:20-23
(2) Romans 6:18
(3) Galatians 5:14
(4) John 1:17; John 8:31-32; John 18:37; 1 Timothy 2:3-4
(5) Matthew 3:17; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 5:8
(6) John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5-6
(7) Hebrews 10:24-25; Matthew 18:20; Acts 2:41-42
(8) 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Philippians 4:11-14; Psalm 23:4-6; Romans 8:35-39
(9) Luke 6:27-28; 1 Peter 3:9
(10) Luke 6:22
(11) Luke 9:23-25
(12) 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21
(13) Genesis 1:1
(14) John 3:16
(15) Acts 2:21; Luke 11:9-10
(16) 1 John 1:9
(17) Romans 10:8-10