Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What does "Christian" mean

I was recently asked about what happens to those people who "lead a Christian life but don't believe."  This points out what is a common thought -- being a Christian means you lead a good and decent life -- and what that good and decent life looks like might vary.  In some places it means you don't drink or smoke.  In some places it means you help out with the right charities and organizations.  In some places it means you support "family values" or it means you support "liberty for the oppressed".  Right or left, public or private - people can insert the adjective "Christian" in front of almost any sort of activity they think is "good"... in opposition to the bad people who... smoke or drink or dance or aren't socially active or are heartless Republicans or wicked Democrats.

Christian seems to mean "good" or "better than the people I don't like" - that's the common way it's used.

Except that has nothing to do with what "Christian" means.

Let's review, everyone.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Well, there you go.  Which of these was "Christian"?  Was it the good man who was better than everyone else?  Because note -- there's no reason to think that the Pharisee was lying in his boasting... he probably wasn't like other men.  He probably was a pillar of his community, and even generous - the type of fellow you'd like to have as your neighbor.

No - what does "Christian" mean?  It means you rely not upon yourself but upon Christ.  It means you confess your sins and receive forgiveness.  It means you go to Church not to show how wondrous you are but in order to receive forgiveness.

Will Christians do "nice" things -- well, sure.  Hopefully they will do many nice things -- your neighbor needs you to show them love; go show love!  But that doesn't make the Christian, that doesn't define a Christian.  A Christian is defined, is created by receiving grace and mercy from God.  A Christian is defined by... Christ.

See... CHRISTian... it's in the name.  It should be a clue.  If you talk about Christians but aren't talking about Christ and His forgiveness, you've missed the point.  In all things, Christ is the point.

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