Christianity is getting a bad name these day and I think it’s about time someone stood up and made some things clear.
First off I am a Christian. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior on September 9, 1979. This alone gives me the ability to speak about what a Christian is. I have done my best to be a good Christian since that date although I can say with certainty that there have been times I have wanted to throw in the proverbial towel. Being a Christian is not all sunshine and Santa Claus, it is hard work and sometimes it leads you to despair, especially when you see the shape the world around you is in, but God always offers hope.
500 years ago on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther posted his thesis on the door of the cathedral in Wittenberg Germany. These Thesis would change the way the world would understand Christianity and it began the movement that became the protestant church of today, it also, over the centuries, caused The Catholic Church to change. This is what is known as The Reformation. The message of Jesus and the Bible hadn’t changed since Jesus died and rose again, but the access to the message had changed and with Martin Luther a new dawn for Christianity started and we reap those benefits today.
What really is a Christian? The word Christian literally means “little Christ”. We could almost say Jesus Jr. In essence that is what a Christian is. Someone who is attempting to live his or her life in the way Jesus led his. It goes deeper than that too. When an individual comes to the conclusion that Jesus really was who he said he was and accepts that as truth a fundamental change occurs. That person receives the Holy Spirit and the world takes a new meaning. Life itself takes a new meaning as that person begins to see his life and actions in the way God sees them. The Bible, for some reason, begins to make sense and words that seemed hard to understand begin to take on a meaning that did not exist before.
The very heart of the individual is changed. You see God really is love and he wants us to love as he loves. He gives us a definition of love in Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth. Paul writes under the influence of the Holy Spirit:
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not Jealous, love is not pompous, it is not
Inflated, it is not rude. It does not seek its own interest, it is not quick tempered,
It does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrong doing but rejoices
With the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures
All things. Love never fails.
This is how God loves and it is also how he expects Christians to love. In fact, the apostle John, a Gospel and Letter write in The Testament of The Bible and it is believed Jesus’ best friend, tells us that “God is love” so you can easily change the word love in the above passage to God and see who God really is and his heart towards all people here on Earth.
Christian are to love others as was stated in the above passage. The problem is that many times we don’t. To be more specific I don’t. I screw up a lot. Really screwing up is simply another term for sin. Sin is an archery term and simply means missing the mark. Every time we admit to sin we are simply saying we missed the bullseye. Sometimes we miss the target all together.
And this where Jesus comes in. You see God is perfect, and being perfect his children must come to him perfect also. The trouble is we can’t. None of are perfect. God knew this would be the case and so he sent his son to pay the price of our imperfection. When Jesus died on the cross he died for every person that had lived and every person that will ever live. Jesus paid the price for us. When he rose from the grave he opened the doors to heaven so that we could enter those doors. Now no matter how bad our sin is we are forgiven for it. Our salvation, our redemption from our sins, from all our sins, for all the times we miss the mark, is gift we only have to accept.
Once we have accepted this gift the world we live in changes and we ourselves should begin to change, the trouble is sometimes we don’t or we are influenced by others, or we are simply too stubborn and that’s where the problems start.
You see Jesus himself said that many would come and say we did this or that in your name, or for you, but he will say to them “I never knew you.” I do not want to point fingers but it may be possible that those who call themselves Christians and bomb abortion clinics or got to funerals of people who have lived a certain life style and protest and tell the mourners that their loved one is in hell, are not Christians at all and if they are they have shot an arrow that landed somewhere in the next field and never even came near the bullseye. They are misguided, and how can I say that? Look again at the definition of love the first two sentences say that “Love is patient. Love is kind.” There is no patience or kindness in those deeds.
In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens Scrooge questions The Ghost of Christmas Present about a certain practice that was being done to prevent the poor from getting their food cooked on certain days. He accuses the Spirit, an emissary from Heaven, of being the perpetrator of the practice. The Ghost grows angry at Scrooge and replies:
There are some upon this earth of yours who lay claim to know us,
and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry,
and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us, and all our kith
and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their
doings on themselves, not us.
This is what many who are not Christians are doing. They are blaming God for the evil that is in this world and those who truly try to follow him. In essence the baby is thrown out with the bath water. They are seeing people do things in the name of Jesus who may not even know who Jesus is. Then these folks put all Christians into the bundle of these misguided or even evil people and the message of real Christians gets lost.
In order to give a description of what a true Christian does and how he or she attempts to live his or her life let’s look at another chapter of A Christmas Carol. Jacob Marley says this to Scrooge as an account of the life he should have lived.
“Oh! Captive bound and double ironed, cried the phantom, not to know
that ages of incessant labor, by immortal creatures, for this earth must
pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed!
Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere,
Whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means
Of usefulness! Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for
Life’s opportunities misused! Yet such was I! Oh, such was I!”
Marley tells Scrooge that a Christian will work KINDLY in its little sphere and there will be so much to do that the work will not end when that person moves on from the earth.
To me real Christians don’t seek the spot light. They do one good thing and go on to the next. Not looking for attention or applause just looking to do good. Sometimes the spot light of the world may fall on some of us. We don’t look for it and if it does happen we go on with the work. We don’t live in the spot light. The satisfaction comes in what we do for others. It comes from how we treat others. It comes from how we love others. The only approval we seek should be God’s.
It doesn’t always work out this way. If I asked you could tell me story after story of those who sought the spot light and got so caught up in it they forgot what they were doing and took what they could for themselves. These are all sad tales and most of us know them, but as the Ghost of Christmas Present said “Charge them with their deeds” and not God.” And I could add all other Christians.
I’m a Christian. I screw up a lot. I miss the mark and as much as I want to I do not love as I should all the time. I can be impatient as well unkind and I am working on this. I have other moment too. Moments when I am working in my little sphere and doing what good I can and I do love well at times. I’m not there yet but I want to be.
This is what a true Christian does he strives to love others as best he can at all times. He knows he can’t do it on his own and so in humility he asks God for help. Sometimes he falls on his face and needs to ask forgiveness from both God and others. We fall, we get up and walk for a bit and then fall down again. But we know God is always there to catch us.
CS Lewis said “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”