The Big Question 23: What Does It Mean to Be a Christian?
Oct 10, 2018 1075
What does it mean to be a Christian?
My idea of what being a Christian is all about has actually changed a lot over the years.
When I was younger I thought being a Christian was about going to church and being part of a religious community that believed in the same things about God. That gave me a sense of safety. In a way it was all about conforming. And it was all about being aware that I was different to other people, and in a sense, judging them, because they weren’t like me and they didn’t have what I had.
In reality, I guess that’s how a lot of non-Christians view believers in Jesus. But the thing is, that’s what I thought being a Christian was all about when I was a kid growing up in church. I think it’s a very immature view of what it means to be a Christian. And it’s taken me a long time to actually grow up.
What made me change my understanding of what it means to be a Christian were two things, I guess, and they were related. The first one was that I started to question my beliefs. And the second one was just the disappointments that always come as you travel through life, even, to be honest, disappointments with church. It’s often the disappointments in life that make us re-evaluate things, right? Because they help us see that the world doesn’t work the way we thought it did.
I came to some bedrock facts, and I think these are the core facts of what it means to be a Christian, and what started the whole Christianity thing in the beginning.
The first one was the fact that Jesus Christ actually lived, died, and rose again from the dead. And it’s not because some religion says so. It’s because the facts of history all stack up, attested by the multiple eye-witness testimonies, and the ripple-effects, even tidal wave-effects, of these events throughout history.
And if these things are true, then what Jesus claimed for himself was true. God came to save the world, and he did it through the Cross, so everyone who believes in him, belongs to his kingdom and has eternal life.
For me, being a Christian is something very, very personal. Because Jesus promised that he would never leave us. He is with us through his Spirit. And I’ve personally found that to be true.
Jesus teaches us a new way to live. Christianity calls it the way of grace, and the truth is that “grace” is a word that Christianity owns, because it’s one of the key things that sets Christianity apart from every other belief system in the world. Grace is the idea that God’s love and forgiveness cannot be earnt, but is offered to every person, even the most unworthy.
But it’s not just an “idea.” It’s a reality that followers of Jesus learn to walk in and find their identity in. To know that you are accepted and loved despite who you are, and despite what anyone else could say about you, is actually incredibly liberating in your daily life. And it frees you up to show grace, forgiveness and unselfish kindness to those around you.
Of course, I go to church. But I’m not a Christian because of church. I’m a Christian because of what Christ has done for me. And I go to church to be encouraged, and encourage others, to live out their lives in freedom, happiness, and hope.