I spent quite a bit of time on Tuesday reading Daniel Jepsen’s post on the genesis of Genesis. And while I agree with Jepsen’s conclusions, I’m aware there are many others who may not buy into all—or any—of what he says about the intended purpose of Genesis. Which got me to thinking: Can a person who believes in a literal reading of Genesis 1 and a person who sees it as a theological discourse to help explain God’s dwelling place both be Christians? Is this a matter that ultimately matters?
What really does matter when it comes to one being a Christian?
Let’s first define what we mean by Christian. For the purpose of this post I want to use to original meaning we see in Acts: “Christ-like,” or, more precisely, “Little Christs.” To first century observers of this new sect, its adherents looked and acted in a manner that reminded them of its founder.
But what about today? Christian is a term used today for many different purposes. It can be a noun (“He doesn’t always act like a Christian”) or adjective (“That’s not a very Christian thing to do”). It can describe a person, an environment, and nation. But what does it really mean to be a Christian in the western culture today? What are the minimum requirements to be Christlike? Let’s look at a few areas of life to see what we can discover.
Church A friend of mine recently said, “Church attendance in America is the 21st century equivalent of 1st century circumcision.” He may have a point. Many will say you can’t be Christlike unless you regularly attend church. Is that true? Can one foster a Christlike spirit without regular fellowship with others of like mind? And if church attendance is necessary to be a Christian, does one have to be “involved,” or can he just show up, follow along, then leave? Is one more Christlike by attending church more often? If you say that church is not necessary to be a Little Christ, why not? Do you think Paul would preach against church involvement today as he did regarding circumcision?
How do you like my questions so far? Ready for some more topics?
The Bible We refer to the Bible as the “Word of God.” Is this correct? Does Hebrews 4:12 refer to the Bible as we know it today? Can one be a Christian and not accept the Bible as literally true in every aspect? For instance, can a woman be a Christian and not believe that Jonah was a real, historic person who was swallowed by a real, historic fish? Can three different people with three different views of a particular passage all three be Christians? How often must a true Christian read his Bible? Daily? Weekly? How about on a need-to-know basis?
Prayer Jesus’ disciples, the original Christians, asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. Jesus didn’t say, “Oh, don’t worry about it. Prayer isn’t all that necessary. Just think positive thoughts and send positive vibes.” No, Jesus taught a prayer we now know as the Lord’s Prayer. Is this all we have to pray in order to be a Little Christ? Do we need to practice and become more proficient pray-ers? Can one even become more proficient in prayer? Is praying a written prayer from book acceptable, or do true Christians only pray extemporaneously? If Sally prays 15 minutes a day, and Julie prays 60 minutes a day, is Julie more Christlike than Sally?
Baptism Easy Steve Martin. Don’t hurt yourself getting to your keyboard on this one. Does one have to be baptized to be a Christian? Is infant baptism permissible? If Harry is baptized by sprinkling, and Jerry baptized by immersion, who is more Christlike?
Witnessing Does a person have to share his faith with others in order to be a Christian? What if I witness as often as you, but never lead anyone to Jesus, whereas you can count at least ten who have become Christians because of your testimony. Are you more Christlike than I?
Occupation Jane is a clerk in a grocery store. Sara is children’s pastor of a community church. Patricia is a full time missions worker in a third-world nation. Who is the most Christlike? Who is the least Christlike?
Family What if you are in your 30s, straight, but not married. Are you as Christlike as your 30-something friends who are married with children? What if your kids go to public school, not a Christian school and not homeschooled? Are you truly following Jesus? Can you be in a committed same-sex marriage and be Christlike? (There goes everything else I’ve just asked …) Can you be divorced and be Christlike?
You may think some of these questions ridiculous, but I promise you I have heard them all expressed in one way or another when evaluating one’s Christlikeness. I grew up hearing “You have to ____ to be saved” and “You can’t _____ and still be saved” every Sunday. And I still hear it today, even from those who otherwise seem to be sane.
So, what do you think? What does one have to do in each of these areas in order to be considered a “true Christian”? Are any of these areas deal breakers should one not do them as you think they should? Have I muddied up the waters real good?
Just what does it take to be a Christian?