Have you ever heard anyone say that? I sure have. I see it a lot in the comment sections of online articles, podcasts, and blogs too. One Christian sharply disagrees with another and in an effort to defend their point of view, if not the reputation of all Christendom declares, “Well, that’s not a real Christian.”
I’ve had my own Christian cred called into question because I didn’t share the same view on a social issue. Frankly, I find it obnoxious.
Why do we think the only “real” Christians are the ones who believe and behave exactly as we do?
“A real Christian would never act that way.”
“A real Christian would never say something like that.”
Really? According to whom… You?
Let’s take a step back. Away from our own biases. Away from our self-authored policies and procedures manuals.
The very name, Christian, was coined to describe the people who believe the following:
Jesus Christ, the guy from Nazareth, was the One who was prophesied about in the Old Testament to redeem God’s people. He was the promised Savior for whom the Jews had been waiting for generations.
He was born of a virgin, Mary, and was the physical incarnation of God on earth.
He led a sinless life and showed us how we may be reconciled to God, forgiven for our sins, and have eternal life with Him in heaven. He commanded us to love one another unselfishly and sacrificially and that “By this, all men will know that you are My disciples”
He performed miracles, forgave sins, healed the sick, raised the dead and shamed the religious for oppressing God’s people with endless rules and standards they themselves did not keep. All to demonstrate God’s redeeming love as well as His authority over His people and all creation.
The Jews were expecting a savior who rose up through earthy government, with a list of bona fides that proved He outranked the current leaders of the Jewish people as well as the Roman government. They could not and would not believe a penniless guy who hung out with thieves, prostitutes, and tax collectors
Though innocent, He allowed Himself to be arrested, mocked, beaten and hung on a cross next to actual guilty people. There, as He hung in bitter agony, He asked our Father in heaven to forgive those who sinned against Him. In doing so, He bore our guilt that we may never suffer the penalty of our sin.
He was buried in a tomb and raised up from the dead three days later… just as He promised.
He ascended into Heaven where He sits at the Right Hand of God until He comes again to gather His people for all eternity.
Savior. Healer. Redeemer. Coming King.
That’s it. If you believe all of this to be true and choose to submit to Christ as your Lord and Savior…you are a REAL Christian.
The rest is all academic. Literally.
There are differing views of scripture that determine Orthodoxy (right doctrine) and Orthopraxis (right practice). Certainly, these things are essential to understanding and living out our faith …but not in determining who is a Christian and who is not.
Christians not only come in all shapes, sizes
and colors, they also follow Jesus at different paces and from varying distances.
Some run after Him and can’t wait to know everything about Him. They pray and praise every day, study His Word and devote themselves to serving Him and honoring Him with every breath they take. That doesn’t mean they don’t get some things wrong, but it does tend to make them more passionate about their lives as disciples.
Some take years to get there. Many Christians struggle with unhealed wounds and bitter roots that undermine all their relationships..including their relationship with Jesus. It’s simply not easy for them to trust and surrender… even when they want to. Sadly, until they do their progress toward intimacy and spiritual maturity will remain slow. However, as long as they continue to follow and grow, they are on the right path. We must encourage them with words that draw them closer to their own glorious moment of transformational Love. For it’s when we love Jesus we are able to keep His commands.
“If you love me, you will keep my commands.” John 14:15
Insulting them will never be helpful. It doesn’t make you look very good either.
Be patient. After all, how patient has God been with you?
Next time you’re in a situation like that, tell the truth, “I don’t believe that’s what the Bible teaches.” or even “I’m not sure that squares with Christian doctrine. You’ll have to show me how you arrived at that conclusion.”
Not only is that more loving, but it might also have some good effect. What if your disagreement sends you both back to the Bible for deeper study and greater understanding? What if it leads to one or both of you gaining greater wisdom and a deeper love for our Savior, Jesus Christ? More of a win, win don’t you think?
Please understand this. We are either drawing others to Jesus or repelling them by the way we conduct ourselves in every situation.
In His love and service,