Who or What is a Christian?
I have heard many definitions over the years but I guess that they all fall into 4 or 5 categories, with variations on a theme. See what you think of this digest.
A Christian is someone who goes to Church.
Yyyeesssss weelllllll. This is the answer that might well come from the rather well dressed middle class pillar of society who attends a large city centre well attended eclectic church usually dedicated to either St Peter or St Paul.
I have some sympathy with this answer for certainly, in my view, a Christian is someone who desires to express their spirituality in some kind of worship. However, I also believe that just by going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. Anyone can regularly attend worship and not participate in any meaningful way. Probably many do!!! I am sure that being a Christian involves worship but Christianity is something much more than just going to church.
A Christian is someone who obeys the 10 Commandments and all that kind of thing – who obeys the laws of God.
Yyyeesssss weelllllll. This is the answer that might well come from the stereotype military gentleman with the stiff upper lip, the very British male who probably went to boarding school and played in the school rugby team or first 11 – a team player.
Again I have some sympathy for this answer for certainly, in my view, a Christian is someone who has the kind of lifestyle that involves respect for others and all of creation. Such a code of behaviour might be enshrined within the 10 Commandments of the Old Testament or the Sermon on the Mount of the New Testament, however many a self-confessed non-believer may follow a similar conduct of behaviour but, by definition, not be a Christian. I am sure that being a Christian involves such a code of behaviour but is much more than just behaviour.
A Christian is someone who loves others – loves even those who persecute them.
Yyyeesssss weelllllll. This is the answer that might well come from the hippy of the sixties or even a ‘happy clappy’ of today.
I also see much mileage in this answer. Didn’t Jesus give much teaching about loving others, especially if love is not reciprocated? However, if love is the whole of the answer then what is the Cross and Resurrection all about? There would have been no need for those. Jesus could have just given his teachings and died a normal death, having many, many more years of useful teaching time to expound further along those lines. No, I believe Christianity very much involves loving others [and self! – Jesus’ summary of the Law] but is much more than just love.
That’s it then – a Christian is someone who believes that Jesus died and rose again for all mankind.
Yyyeesssss weelllllll. This is the answer that might well come from the earnest young man in the quiet coloured suit with the bible tucked under his arm.
Once again I have great sympathy for this answer for the Creeds define the belief system of the Christian religion. However, if I may use this type of language, the Devil believes that Christ died and rose again to save mankind and I cannot think that the Devil is a Christian! No, belief is a central aspect of the Christian religion but Christianity is something more than just belief.
Christianity involves worship, code of behaviour, loving others and belief but is something greater and grander than even all of those put together.
To introduce the 5th category let me diverge for a moment.
There is one verse in the bible that occurs three times in different parts of that tome – once in Genesis, once in Matthew’s Gospel and the third time in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. It reads, “Therefore a man leaves his father and mother, cleaves [a lovely old fashioned word] to his wife, and the two become one flesh.” That is a simple description of the potential within the marriage relationship.
In other words, after many years of marriage the two people become so entwined in love, life and living that great hurt or distress would occur if there was an enforced separation. Others see them as a single unit. They are “one”. Therefore Derby demands a Joan, a loving Grandma demands a loving Granddad etc. I am sure you can call such couples to mind for if one of the two is remembered for some reason or other then the other comes to mind in the next instant.
St Paul in his letter to the Ephesians takes the sentence one step further in that he says “….. This is a great mystery, and I take it to mean Christ and his Church”.
So St Paul uses this single verse to encapsulate many chapters, stories, parables and even a whole OT book about the teachings of the potential relationship that can exist between people as the possible relationship between Christ and his whole Church or just Christ and a single Christian – the two becoming so close that they become ‘one’.
So what we have is that if Fred, let’s say, who is a Christian, is remembered for some reason or other, then Christ comes to mind in the next instant. In other words they are so close that their lives are bound up together, or there is something about Christ [about God or the Spirit of God/Christ] that is with Fred. It might be the love of God or the wisdom of God or the strength of God or the holiness of God and so on. And it will be different, no doubt, for Fred than say Mary, who is another Christian. But equally there will be something about Christ with her – as of Christ with all Christians.
It is this living and very intimate relationship that motivates a Christian to express the relationship through worship. It is the same relationship that guides a Christian to live respectfully with others and the world. It is the relationship that encourages loving others for he or she has experienced the love of God for themselves. It is the reason to believe for that explanation makes some kind of sense of their experience. It is a living relationship that is not a head trip but something to experience NOW but with the promise of greater things to come.
St Paul put it another way. In his Letter to the Colossians, chapter 1 verse 27 he writes:
“The secret [Paul’s word – not mine] of Christianity is Christ in us, the hope for a glory to come.”