What does it really mean to be a Christian?

I am a Christian.

To me, I know exactly what that means. To a lot of other folks, it means something completely different. It tends to absorb whatever experiences, prejudices or preconceived ideas they have and morph them into an opinion.

Even within the thousands of different churches and denominations, there are completely different ideas about what makes someone a “good” Christian. Everyone has an opinion.

Maybe we need to clarify the whole concept of what it does, and does not mean.

In simple terms, it means that I recognize Jesus as the virgin born son of the living God and creator of the universe. It means I believe in the death, burial and resurrection of someone who had the power to redeem me from the sin we were born into. It means that my goal should be to follow His teachings and attempt to live in such a way as to make Him proud.

That’s the core of what I believe we are, as Christians.

The problem begins when we think it means that we are supposed to impose everything we think we know and believe on people who aren’t Christians. The morality, faith and boundaries we are taught is something we should use to guide our own lives, not demand everyone else conform to.

Old Testament stories are full of nations being wiped out for being “heathens” or worshiping other gods. The same is true of our ancestors and other religious groups throughout history. People who consider it their personal mission to force others to serve a god they don’t know.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t see anywhere in the bible where unbelievers are expected to act like believers. I don’t really see much written telling anyone what they are suppose to do… Unless they call themselves Christians.

My overall impression, was that Jesus expected believers to live in such a way as to display their faith by their actions. Our lives should provoke others to want whatever it is we have. If our lives are in order and wonderful, maybe they will become Christians by their own choice. Maybe if we are doing Christlike things, instead of just talking about them, folks might take us seriously.

If not, maybe we are doing it wrong.

The other reality is that, for those of us in America, we live in a country that strives to give equal rights to everyone. If someone declares themselves to be Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, whatever; they have the right to believe and live however they choose. At least they do until those choices impose their lifestyle on anyone else.

Personally, I don’t eat meat, but I don’t have the right to demand everyone else stop. If my health, physical condition or general quality of life impresses someone, they might want to try it.

If not, it’s probably because my life doesn’t impress them enough to affect their decisions. The fact that I am possibly the fattest human vegetarian alive is probably not going to bait anyone over to try my diet choices. I don’t fairly represent the physical condition of most vegetarians. Not yet anyway.

If I was absolutely passionate about it, I might justify telling other people and making them aware of the issues that helped make my decision. That might influence folks to look deeper into this thing I believe in. But only if they found me inspirational or had any other reason to consider my opinions significant.

The absolute wrong way would be to try slapping cheeseburgers out of their hands or yelling about what bad people they are for eating meat. Insulting their choices, criticizing their life, trying to get ham sandwiches banned, making sure they no longer have it as an option.

None of that would make me popular or give my opinion legitimate value. None of that demonstrates any degree of love or compassion for them. They would just see me as another arrogant nut trying to force my beliefs on them.

It sounds comical, but that’s pretty much what the church has been doing.

We have demanded people live the way we interpret the bible. We have forced our beliefs down their throats. We have tried to beat the love of God into them and show them how much we love them by attacking everything that matters to them.

So, how’s that working? Not so good apparently.

Honestly consider your own life. If the things you believe have proven themselves to strengthen families and make you a happier person, hang onto them. If those beliefs lead to actions that lower divorce rates, violence, crime, poverty, hunger or homelessness… Then they are probably worth holding onto.

If you have just given yourself over to another mindless religion, following leaders who teach from traditions and concepts to keep your guilt-ridden, judgmental and greedy mentality in line with the other sheep….

Maybe it’s time to reconsider what you believe a Christian actually is.

 

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M. Erik Matlock is a self-professed recovering knucklehead with more than 500 articles and four books in print. He shares his hard-earned wisdom at ErikMatlock.com, ProSoundWeb.com and through his books, which are available at Amazon.

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