How can you call yourself a Christian? I heard someone ask a friend of mine that question this week. Under the circumstances, I understand why they said it. I don’t agree with their logic, but I do understand it.
That’s the kind of question you get from a few kinds of people. Unbelievers with preconceived ideas of what Christians are. Atheists who enjoy taunting Christians. You probably hear it most from insecure, overly religious Christians who secretly doubt their own faith. Just my observations here. No real research involved. Take it for what it’s worth.
I had a massive confrontation once, with a pastor who was teaching people that they basically became unsaved the second they did anything that qualified as a sin. Smash your thumb with a hammer, say something relevant to the situation, boom… Unsaved. Pray the “sinner’s prayer” quick before you die. That’s pretty much what he was teaching. I didn’t agree with him. That kind of teaching hangs a huge weight on people to live utterly perfect lives, the impossible kind. Plenty of condemnation and judgement under teaching like that.
I hear it from non-Christians who are under the assumption that being a Christian means being a nice person, but basically a morality cop who demands everyone follow their rules. They have experienced so much hypocrisy and judgement from believers, that they are mostly justified to feel like that. We kinda dug our own grave with that type attitude.
As far as that question goes, I wanted to point out a few things. I am not going to turn this into a debate or bible study. I just want to throw a few points out there to consider. Mainly, what believers did and how God responded.
I am going to make some very broad generalizations. When I say believer, I am going to be talking about new testament Christians, as well as Old Testament believers. Got it? Good. Stay with me.
Peter. Crazy guy, Peter. Cut off someone’s ear. Jesus cleaned up the mess and told him to calm down. Peter tried to walk on water, sunk pretty quick. Jesus got him into the boat, questioned his faith, but never attacked him. He even abandoned and rejected Jesus when the stuff hit the fan, and Jesus still went looking for him after the resurrection. Jesus loved that guy.
That woman caught in adultery. Jesus never used Old Testament law against her. Didn’t throw a rock at her. Challenged the religious leaders to examine themselves. Questioned their purity. Forgave her and moved on.
King David. Remember him? Murderer, adulterer, manipulator, etc. Still called a man after God’s own heart for being quick to repent and trusting God. Massive failures, horrible character issues, but still trusted God. Easily more messed up than your average Christian. Lucky they didn’t have CNN or youtube then.
Elijah. Wow. Absolute faith followed by panic. Conquer the world one day, hide from one crazy lady the next. Still saw more amazing miracles than almost anyone else. Still used and loved by God.
John the Baptist. Another nut job, right? Basically a homeless guy who ate bugs and wore animal skin. Loud mouth, attacking religious leaders, talking like a heretic. Eventually ends up in prison, questioning if Jesus was really the messiah. Still considered one of the greatest men who ever lived, by Christ Himself.
Are you following me? Do you see a pattern? How could any of them call themselves believers or Christians?
I see a gracious and loving God who asks us to love Him, love each other and trust Him. Not a tyrant demanding absolute perfection. Not a selfish king setting up a kingdom of slaves and drones. A good and loving God that understands we are human, we fail, we fall, we make mistakes. I don’t see Him upset with us. I see Him making extreme effort to prove His love for us.
The only folks I see Christ attacking, are the folks who claim to be closest to God, driving others away. Hypocrites claiming to be perfect and demanding people live like them. Religious leaders who lead people on a path that they don’t even understand. Leaders who are still enforcing Old Testament laws without understanding the heart of the gospel.
A pastor once said this to me, changed my life. “The Old Testament is man demanding a king. It’s us trying to see just how much we can get away with, and still be considered pure. Showing us that we are incapable of achieving perfection. The New Testament is God offering us a father. Him reaching out to us. Offering us grace, mercy and forgiveness. Offering to pay a bill that we can’t cover.”
If we don’t forgive, we won’t be forgiven. Remember that line? We need to offer the same forgiveness, grace and mercy to others that we received from Him. We can’t waste our life, beating up people over things that don’t even matter. Over details. Do the stuff that matters. Get over the stuff that doesn’t. Enjoy life, enjoy your family, don’t get bogged down with foolishness. Don’t worry so much about the opinions of angry and deceived people.
You guys make your own decisions. Choose the kind of life you want. Choose to believe whatever you want about who God is and what it means to be a Christian. I choose to believe in a loving and merciful Father. I choose to believe that loving God, loving each other and trusting Christ are the simple foundation of my faith. I choose to focus on doing good and not just focusing on rules I can even keep up with. Not a spiritual bean counter. Just a guy who is learning to love and live. I choose to place the needs of my own wife and kids over the needs and demands of any other person.
I am more concerned with God’s opinion of me than anyone else. I think He loves me and is even proud of me. That’s how I can call myself a Christian.