"So, what are you?"
I am a Christian.
One definition of Christian that Merriam-Webster offers is:
a: one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ
I’m okay with that definition, but I in my humble opinion, it skirts the real meaning of a Christian.
You see, from where I’m standing, it seems that being a Christian is more than just believing in the teachings of Jesus Christ. It’s believing that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He has been here, and that it was through His death on the cross that we received God’s grace and that our salvation was made possible only through His death.
I feel like I’m falling woefully short in offering my definition of being a Christian. I’m reminded of what my good friend Daniel told me during our very first conversation a few months ago. Daniel said, “Sam, you just make God so simple. Either you believe in Him or you don’t.” Seems kind of shallow, but Daniel’s assessment is spot on. You believe in God, or you don’t.
Well, incorporating Daniel’s simplistic terms, defining a Christian is just as simple. Either you believe in and accept Jesus, or you don’t.
So why do we have to make it so complicated?
“So, what are you?”
When it comes to being Christians, why can’t we get past all of the “religious differences” that separate us, and embrace the one thing that we have in common? Why is it that many times my reply of “I am a Christian” isn’t the right answer to the question? You see, in my mind, it’s the right answer, or at least it’s the only one that really matters. But it seems that in the minds of many, where I practice my faith is more important than my faith itself.
A couple of months ago I received a letter from a gentleman here in Birmingham who had read an article that I’d written titled A God of Fear? This man, who I’ll call Bob, was concerned that I’d left a religious denomination of which I’d been a member for over fifty years. He had also been gracious enough to include a book that had been written to give insight and understanding to others who may have been struggling with that particular denomination. I guess I should mention that Bob is still a practicing member in the church that I left. In closing his letter, Bob invited me to contact him if I’d like to talk, or if I felt that he could help me in any way.
Which is exactly what I did!
One week and several e-mails later I had an appointment to meet Bob at a local Starbucks for coffee and conversation. As I was driving to my destination, I realized that I had no idea why I was going to meet Bob in the first place! I think that, more than anything else, I wanted to hear his thoughts on “helping me.” And I think too, that I just wanted him to hear what was on my heart, about God, about Jesus, and about religion.
After an awkward moment of introductions and small talk, the conversation turned to the topic of the day, which was how I went from being this to that. And I have to tell you, we had a really good talk. I didn’t feel that either of was trying to win a debate, or shoving our convictions down the others throat. It was just a healthy exchange between two Christian men, discussing “God-matters-of-the-heart.”
There was one point in the conversation that disturbed me, or perhaps I should say “startled” me, and it was that particular moment during my time with Bob that birthed the idea for today’s post…
Bob was sharing a thought with me, when I just flat-out interrupted him and matter-of-factly asked, “Bob, are you implying that I’ve lost my salvation because I go to a different church?”
Bob was apparently a bit stunned by the boldness of my question. I could sense that he was searching for what would be an answer that contained the truth, but would mask what he was really thinking. Several seconds passed, and I patiently waited for a response.
“No, I don’t think that you’ve lost your salvation. It’s just that I’m concerned and I want what’s best for you.” Bob replied.
Yep, I’m calling a time out. No, I’m not going anywhere. But I’ll be right up front in telling you that this is really a sensitive subject for me. That being said, if I seem to be standing on a soap box, it’s because I am. And I’m telling you now, with as much humility as I can muster up, that I’m not apologizing for it, either.
“What’s best for me?”
Incredulous is the best term that I can come up with in describing my reaction to Bob’s statement. This time, it was my turn to be stunned. “BEST for me?” was wanted I wanted to shout at Bob! Of course I didn’t, because I knew that it would serve no purpose. At that precise moment I knew that in the end, when our conversation was over and we had emptied our respective hearts, that Bob and I would be united in our belief in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, yet miles apart in how to best carry out our beliefs. And I have to tell you that as I sat there looking at Bob, I felt sorry for him. You see, I felt that somewhere along the way, it was religion, and not God, that had become the path to Bob’s salvation.
Heads up…I’m gonna go on a rant here…
What’s best for me is God. Period. What’s best is that He doesn’t dwell in any building, but in our hearts and minds. What’s best is that He doesn’t care if I’m a Baptist, or Methodist, or Catholic, or Protestant, or any other Christian denomination that I may have omitted. He wants to be my Father, and He wants me to be His son. Any and all rules for living the life that He wants me to live are found in the Ten Commandments that He gave us, and not in any other rules written by men, for men. What’s best for me isn’t found in a religion book, or in a religious tradition, or the traditional trappings of what you typically find in a “church.” What’s best for me is a real relationship, with a real God; a God that I can pray to, and cry with, and laugh with, and share my life with. What’s best for me is the unconditional and unwavering Father’s love that I know God has for me because of that relationship with Him.
What’s best for me are the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit gives me every day; gifts that include wisdom, and understanding, and faith. These gifts are available to me each day only for the asking, and I’m always asking.
What’s best for me is that I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God. I believe that He is my Lord and Savior. I believe that He died for me so that I may one day be in heaven; He gave His life so that I may have eternal life. I believe that Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life, and I believe that the only way to God is through Him.
Yes, Daniel, you’re absolutely right. You believe in Jesus or you don’t. It’s just that simple.
Sorry. The rant is over. Thanks for indulging me.
If you’re reading this, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume that you’re a Christian. If I’m correct in my assumptions, then you’re aware that in two more days we’ll be celebrating the day of Jesus’ birth. We’ll be celebrating Christmas, as Christians, as those who not only, according to Merriam-Webster, “believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ”, but more importantly, believe in Him.
Believing in Jesus and being a Christian. It’s what sets us apart from Muslims, and Jews, and Buddhists, and Atheists.
“So, what are you?”
I am a Christian. That’s all that really matters, isn’t it?
Happy Birthday Jesus!