What does Christian mean to you
My prayer for combating the growing view that my opinion on a matter is right and everyone else is wrong. That if others don’t agree with me on a topic I should unfriend them on FB or cut them out of my life. The attitude that I should ruthlessly attack your point of view because it does not match mine. And our tendency to disregard mercy and peace for judgment.
Lord, may I never become so close minded that I surround myself only with like minded people. Cutting off anyone who dares to think, look, act or live different than I choose to. Help me not to create a bubble filled only with those who agree with me. Cultivating a terrifying reality that leads me to believe that I am solely and exclusively right! Never having the opportunity to be challenged in my perspectives and beliefs. Therefor, crippling me from ever evolving into anything more than I already am. Amen.
The many definitions
When I hear the word Christian, my first feeling is skepticism. That’s probably awful considering I am one. A Christian, that is. Well, a skeptic too at times. It reminds of Inigo Montoya in Princess Bride. “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” There are many versions of how that title is portrayed today. Sometimes it looks snobby and condescending. Maybe you’ve seen warmth and thoughtfulness, I hope. There are some that are super smart and throw around their “christian-ese” until you feel like you just spoke to one of the original disciples of Jesus himself. Other folks view Christians the same as sales people or telemarketers. Still some portray the title as hateful, judgmental and condemning.
I grew up around “Christians” like this. They focused so much on the not being like the world. Verses like; do not love the world or the things in the world. Do not be conformed to this world. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. Don’t be surprised the world hates you were their go to’s. They barricaded themselves off from people who did not live the way they did. I was taught that I could not have friends who weren’t “Christians” like us. That last part was seething in sarcasm by the way. When teenager me ran away from home, I became the outcast. Just another evil girl in the world that needed to be cut off from the church body.
This mentality kept me from God for a good chunk of my adult life. There was no way I wanted any part of that cult type living. Recently I decided to research this thing. 1 John goes on to say; For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. Hmm, those are pretty good things to stay away from. James 4:4 about being friends with the world makes you an enemy of God was bothering me the most. So I read the 5 books of James trying to capture the whole context.
This book is packed full for being so short! He starts out by talking about trials and temptation. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. You may be familiar with that one. He moves on to tell us we should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. At the end of chapter 1 it says, those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight reign on their tongues deceive themselves.
Religion that God accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Wow, all that in chapter 1. So it seems we are supposed to; speak sweet, listen, don’t get mad easily, help orphans and widows (strange I didn’t see where it said Christian orphans and widows, huh) and do not be polluted by the world.
Next we read that we are not to discriminate between the rich or poor. Followed by another reminder to love your neighbor as yourself (again, there was no love your Christian neighbor there). It then tells us not to judge that mercy triumphs over judgement. <— I’m so glad because I need a whole lot of mercy. Chapter 2 ends by telling us you cannot have faith without deeds. That simply believing in Jesus Christ is not enough because even Satan believes his existence. Your salvation should produce good work in your life, a desire to follow through with how the bible teaches us to live. That’s my super short synopsis for the sake of word count.
The next chapter warns us about the power of the tongue and how difficult it is to tame. How damaging it’s effects can be. Amen?! We end this chapter with the explanation of wisdom. In verse 17 of chapter 3 it explains the type of wisdom that comes from heaven. Pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. I don’t know about you but I want that friend! Heck, I want to be that friend. Also, it doesn’t sound like a judgmental, alienate yourself, stay away from me you unclean! type of person. So, characteristics of heavenly wisdom. We are all still following,right.
This brings us to chapter 4. This chapter houses the verse that being friends with the world makes us enemies of God. It starts out talking about how we want things and covet and it causes us to fight and quarrel. It tells us that we don’t have because we don’t ask. And when we want for selfish reasons God won’t give it to us anyway. Immediately after that it says, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity with God.
What does world mean
Ok, I had to ask for guidance on this one. I thought, why does it say don’t love this world in one verse and then God so loved the world in another. Turns out there are a few different meanings of the word world in the bible. This is a good reference to understand that, thank you to my Godly counsel. There are other places in scripture that relate the word world to the evil of the world as opposed to people.
1 John 2 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. It seems clear when you read James in context that it is also referring to the world as the evil in the world. Since he just told us how we covet and fight and want for our own selfish desires in the verse just before it. This makes sense since the book of James just showed us a comparison of how our human nature wants to live and how believers should live differently. We could read that sentence, believers are to live different than the world.
What did Jesus show us
I thought about the nature of Jesus in comparison to the thinking I was raised with. You see, Jesus didn’t alienate himself from non-believers. He ate with them. Jesus let them touch him. He healed them and even stayed in their homes! When I look at how Jesus spoke to people it seems he spoke love to them. Like to the woman who had 5 husbands and a boyfriend. Or the one caught in adultery. And the most humbling time, when he spoke to God the Father saying, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. Why then, do people claim to be Christians and behave toward non believers in an angry, judgmental, condemning manner?
What Christian means to me
When I say that I am a Christian I am saying; I am not perfect. The very essence of being a Christian is to first realize that you are not good enough. There’s no way I deserve to make it in to heaven. It means that I believe Jesus died for me and is alive again. I am saying that I will spend my life after this earth in heaven and not because of anything I did to deserve it but because of Jesus sacrifice and my acceptance. After that, being a Christian means that my time on earth is just a half marathon of what my existence is. It is a short race that I need to use to tell everyone what Jesus did for me by showing his love to others.
The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s ALL your neighbors by the way. The opponents I am racing against are Satan, who comes to destroy and devour. And time, this life is so short. Not only are we told not to judge but we don’t have time for that! That time is coming on its own. We need to use this short time to show as much of Jesus love to others as we can. It’s a race against the clock of judgment, not handing it down. We are supposed to be bringing people in not locking them out.
There are many titles. Men/Women, Dad/Mom, Police/Convict, White/Black, Asian/Hispanic, Christian/Atheist, Straight/Homosexual, Republican/Democrat. Altogether this list, that could go on forever, has a commonness. Human. God Created. Sinner. Loved.
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