A Gathering Voices post by Lynne M. Baab
Yesterday I spoke with someone who had been asked to preach a sermon as a part of a series. Each preacher was invited to choose a topic beginning with “A Christian is someone who . . .”. This fellow had chosen, “A Christian is someone who shows hospitality to strangers.” While I totally agree with his choice, I found myself wondering what I would choose if I were asked to participate in that series.
Perhaps, “A Christian is someone who prays.” For me prayer is at the center of my faith. But then I realized that Hindus, Jews, and others pray, so I figured I’d better be more specific. “A Christian is someone who prays to God in companionship with Jesus, through the power of the Spirit.”
Then I got to thinking about the importance of the Bible for Christians. “A Christian is someone who reads the Bible, asking for the illumination of the Holy Spirit in order to grow in knowledge and intimacy with the God who created everything and redeemed us in Jesus Christ.” Hmmmm, a bit long. But I wanted to emphasize that we don’t read the Bible as an end in itself, but as a way to draw near to God. And I wanted to emphasize the role of the Holy Spirit in making the Bible come alive.
Increasingly these days I find myself thinking that obedience is at the heart of being a Christian. So, perhaps, “A Christian is someone who seeks to follow God in Jesus Christ, with the guidance and empowering of the Holy Spirit.”
Still a bit long. Maybe simply, “A Christian is someone who follows Jesus.” This way of saying it allows for talking about the role of the Bible in learning how to follow Jesus and also the significance of the Holy Spirit in guiding us and enabling us to follow.
Or maybe, “A Christian is someone who loves Jesus.” Love is even broader than following. Saying it this way would allow the preacher to talk about prayer, my central passion, but also talk about how love drives us to read and study the Bible, God’s Word to us, and how love motivates us to follow and obey.
To be honest here, I also have to report what a couple of extended family members would say if asked about this topic. They would say, “A Christian is someone who is deluded, who stupidly believes ridiculous things, and who is probably also a hypocrite, talking one way and living another way.” Ouch.
After I came up with these options, I asked my Facebook friends to complete the statement. Here are the answers. I was interested to see the overlap with what I’d been thinking, but I love the new ideas as well. So, according to some wise friends, a Christian is someone who . . .
- with others, inhabits the kingdom of God thereby giving witness to the reality of the salvation of God available through Jesus the Christ.
- knows in her heart that the blood of Jesus makes her God's child and God's princess (which would lead one to act accordingly, of course!).
- asks the right questions, rejoices in the mystery, lives with uncertainty.
- with the help and encouragement of a faith community tries to follow the call of Jesus on their lives (whatever shape that may take).
- is a follower of Jesus Christ. And Jesus said that the test of that and our love for Him is our obedience to His teachings. Scary eh?
- follows Jesus.
- is working on following Jesus everyday but not succeeding yet trying again!
- experiences the love of God through Jesus Christ. So I suppose that's "following."
- loves, follows and thanks Jesus even in the face of opposition, rejection and danger. What a challenge but what a reward.
If you were asked to complete that sentence, how would you complete it? If you were asked to speak or preach about the way you completed it, what would you emphasize?
(The "know-love-serve" graphic comes from the website of Austin Christian Fellowship. I don't know anything about that particular church, but I like the graphic very much. It seems to visually represent some of the themes of this post.)