What Is a Real Christian?
A while back I was troubled to read a certain exchange between a Christian missionary and a Hindu. The Hindu complained: "You Christians seem to us Hindus rather ordinary people making extraordinary claims."
When the missionary replied that the extraordinary claims are made about Christ, not about us, the Hindu replied: "If your Christ has not succeeded in making you better men and women, have we any reason to suppose that he would do more for us, if we became Christians?"
My original plan with this post was to launch off into a discussion of the essence of real Christianity. Is it just about being made "better men and women"? Is that the heart of our faith, the irreducible minimum of what it means to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth?
But instead of pontificating away and pretending like I've got it all figured out and you need to learn from me, I think I'm going to leave the question unanswered. It will be far more thought provoking for all of us that way.
I'm going to take some more time and just ponder. I'd love it if you'd think along with me, reflect a little bit about your own life, and consider some ways this Hindu's comment is about you. And I'd really love it if you'd leave a response in the comments section about how you would answer this criticism that Christians are just ordinary people making extraordinary claims.
Friday, October 05, 2007
Ordinary People Making Extraordinary Claims
What Is a Real Christian?
Posted by Josh at 3:57 PM
Okay, I'll bite!
I felt the ole Gandhi comment coming back up in my head as I read your post.
I think if I had to label what is trying to be conveyed, I would go with "superior." I think Christians tend to project that air about them, making fellow Christians either pander to keep up or just give up altogether. Or, actually, be afraid to rock the boat & question why it feels they are practicing Catholicism under a Baptist title. Or the like. For non-Christians, I think the air of superiority just turns them completely away. There is no pull to Christ.
Hypocrisy is such a hard, touchy topic. We are all hypocrites. If we weren't, we wouldn't need Christ. I think accepting that & then following through by offering that out, that grace of understanding, to our brothers & sisters is the key to coping with hypocrisy.
I have lost friendships over trying to do what I thought was right, in God's name. I see now, looking back through "wiser" eyes, that I lacked compassion & true love. Our relationship lacked the strong bridge or foundation it needed to handle my direct confrontation. A better way would've been just being real IN CHRIST, allowing my friend to see what would be possible for him/her. That's it really.
I think when we stop trying so hard to be what we think we're supposed to be . . . when we stop expecting of others what we so harshly expect (& don't attain) from ourselves . . . when we face a person we dislike with all our hearts & see a soul that matches our own . . . when we realize nothing we do will grant us a higher level in heaven . . . then we might be onto something when it comes to defining being a Christian.
I will ditto Danna's comments and add that we must not forget that our fellow Christians are struggling with issues that can seem just as overwhelming as issues that non-believers are stuggling with, thereby contradicting our extraordinary claims. No matter the believer's standing in Christ, he is still a sinner saved by grace and mercy. Extraordinary words - grace and mercy. Everything we do, say, think must edify one another and ultimately glorify Christ. But because we are ordinary people/sinners, we are always expected to exhibit those extraordinary claims, which, believe it or not, we can do, with the help of the indwelling Spirit. Realizing that we are all sinners in need of a Savior, no matter our sins, and treating one another as Ephesians 4:29-32 admonishes us to, could possibly have such an effect on this Hindu that he would desire to be an ordinary Christian making extraordinary claims.
Would that we would live what we say we believe.
Many belief systems, not just Christianity, speak out against hypocrisy. It is closely related to lack of sincerity. To define Christianity, it is extremely important to emphasize that looking to fellow men will always, always end in disappointment. The focus has to be upward. By grace are we saved through faith. Grace, not works. Faith, not actions. God does not
promise Christians riches on earth; our rewards are in heaven. And when we
are Christians, true followers of Christ who believe in Him, God never forsakes us. No one can snatch us out of His hand - not satan (because God is so much stronger than he is) and not man (for we are nothing). THAT is what is extraordinary - our eternal salvation in Him, not our "more" here on earth.
I'm going to bite on this one for a little. Without knowing more of the context from which this come from, I can understand Christians being viewed as hypocritical. As a nation, we are often called a "Christian" nation, which is about as far from the truth as you can get. And to often, the most visible "Christians" to the world are the last people I would want representing my faith (think televangelists, and scandals). On top of that, put all the different denominations that classify themselves as Christian and we began to have a jumbled mess when unbelievers who don't know any true followers of Christ try and discern what a Christian is. That is not to say that true followers of Christ can't be hypocrites, we can, but I think that all mankind falls into that same sin.
My main point however is that I don't have a problem with the comments. As I read the first one, I agree with the Hindu. We are ordinary people making extraordinary claims. If we become extraordinary people then our message can become about us and not about the One who lives in us. I mean what is more extraordinary of claim to make than for an ordinary (seemingly, from the outside)person to make than to say they are forgiven because they did nothing, and are now living, moving, and having their being in the Him! As for the second comment, again if you look at true followers of Christ there should be a visible evidence of a change in us. But I think a better response to that statement would be that Christ has succeeded in providing forgiveness and has given Himself to be our Savior. That is something that no other religion has to offer, a Savior.
All of that to say however, this was another good reminder of examining my life and how I represent my Savior to the world around me. Good thoughts Josh, I thought on this for a few days before I posted.
ps Who was the second person from HS that you ran into at the conference?
Our Christ doesn't make us better...He makes us exempt.
Thanks for the comments (except for the curious "Schtoe?" What was THAT about?! I think I know, but just wondering...)
If you've not commented yet and want to, do.
If you're interested in my answer, I'll post a follow up later this week. Thanks, all.
E, it was Paul Perdue.
"all of us, are like the rest of us"...a common quote from one of my wise pastors.
We have extraordinary hope, that while we clearly won't be extraordinary in this life, we will be in the next. This is not because I am extraordinary (or ever will be in this life), but only because my God (The GOD) is extraordinaryly loving and merciful to us, the ordinary.
I will always ordinarily fail to live up to The extraordinary example I'm given by my God, there is only one perfect/extraordinary man.
But, what I do have, is an extraordinary Book, that assures me of an extraordinary promsie that creates my extraordinary hope to one day be extraordinary like Him. Wanna see my book?
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