What Is a “Christian”?

*** This article was written back in 2009, for a local newspaper, by the pastor of my church. 

Are you a Christian? That may seem like a strange question for a regular reader of this column and I suspect that most would answer with an indignant ‘yes’ except for those who are disappointed that they couldn’t find their horoscope.

This ‘yes or no question’ may elicit a common response, but if I change it slightly to “How did you become a Christian?” then I believe we could uncover a diversity of answers such as:

  • “I was born in a Christian country.”
  • “I was baptized as a child.”
  • “I was baptized as an adult.”
  • “I went through a confirmation process.”
  • “I believe all the right things.”
  • “I once prayed a prayer asking Jesus into my heart.”
  • “I go to church every week (pretty much).”
  • “I believe in God.”
  • “I am a good person (pretty much).”

The problem with all of those answers is that none of them are right. None of them are Biblically complete. None of them reflect the radical faith that Jesus came to call us to.

They may be steps in the right direction, but they fall far short of being the destination.

When Jesus came to earth 2000 years ago, He didn’t come to establish new religious practices and rituals like the ones listed above. In fact, He came to make it very clear that doing these things were not what God wanted from us at all. The mentality of religion as keeping the right rules was so prevalent in Jesus’ time that He got in trouble one day for healing a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath ~ a specific and serious offense to religious law. To paraphrase Jesus, his response was “That is ridiculous!”

Jesus didn’t come so that we could be more religious, or to initiate an adjustment in the rules. Jesus came to call us to be His followers. The great commission was not to celebrate the faith of those who would assent to a set of beliefs and agree to keep the rules. The great commission of Matthew 28 is to make disciples. What is a disciple? It is a ‘little Jesus’. It is someone who seeks to be like their master.

And so, are you in the process of becoming a ‘little Jesus’? Have you given up on pleasing God by keeping the rules and are you ready to join with Him as He changes the world while He changes you? Are you tired of focusing on an outward spirituality that is disconnected from the rest of your life? Are you a follower — a disciple — of Jesus Christ?

If your answer is ‘yes’, then you are a Christian. It’s that simple.

~ Jim B.

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