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What is a Christian?


At a time when he was being hunted down as a criminal, Jesus Christ said that there would come a day when people would claim to be following him just to gain social acceptance. (Luke 21:8) Surely this must be one of the most amazing prophecies in the Bible. And it was recorded in print by his followers at a time when they too were being hunted down as criminals. Yet that same prophecy has come true to an extreme throughout much of the Western world.

For many who claim to be following Jesus today, it is unthinkable that anyone would ever question their credentials as 'Christians'. To be labelled as a non-Christian is, to them, like being labelled subhuman. 'Christian' means 'good guy', 'good neighbour', 'decent', and 'respectable'. So how dare anyone suggest that they might not be all these things!

At the same time that the status quo lays claim to the title of 'Christian' (and demands that the claim never be questioned), it passes the harshest possible judgment on those who would redefine Christian as a literal follower of Jesus Christ. We who have chosen to live our lives in accordance with the teachings of Jesus are called a dangerous cult, to be feared and fought by all who consider themselves to be 'Christians' in the socially acceptable way of thinking.

Jesus said of his worst enemies, "Because you say that you can see, you are really blind." (John 9:41) In other words, it was their own inability to consider that they could be wrong, which made them ineligible for his army to begin with. And it is this same inability for the status quo to question their sincerity that makes them so un-Christian today.

Are you offended when someone questions whether or not you are a Christian? If so, it may be because you are not. A true communist, or truck driver, or Spaniard would hardly take offence by someone seriously questioning whether they are what they say they are. This is because the evidence to support their identity would not come just from their "claims", or from "articles of faith". It would come from their lives. You don't, for example, argue over whether or not you are a truck driver. You just get out there and drive trucks, and leave the arguments to someone else.

Someone has said, "If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you." It is a good way of putting things into perspective. Rather than thinking of Christianity as embodying all those qualities which would make someone popular, we should be prepared to think of it as being something that could make us social outlaws. This is far more in keeping with what Jesus himself taught and lived. At the moment, the "evidence" most people look for as proof of being Christian is acceptance by the religious status quo. But anyone who begins to look more closely at what it means to be a Christian in a literal sense, would soon see through the lie which that represents.

While much of the world lives in a whirl of social niceties, where everyone conspires to overlook each other's faults, we dare to make Jesus and his teachings the standard by which to measure true Christian faith. We don't do it to insult or offend. We do it to maintain our sanity. When we say that we cannot find evidence to support your claim to being a Christian, it doesn't mean that we don't like you, that you aren't a very good person, possibly involved deeply in religious activity. It's just that we don't see evidence of your commitment to the teachings of Jesus above all other beliefs.

It's true that, in using the teachings of Jesus as the standard by which to judge who is Christian and who is not, we have come to the conclusion that there are practically no Christians at all left on this planet. Call it exclusivism. Call it judgmental. Call it heretical. But it has been based on an honest examination of the evidence. If a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ and his teachings, then where is there anyone who is doing that?

We are not talking about people who follow imaginary Jesuses based on their own feelings and desires. We are not talking about people who follow replacement Jesuses in the form of their religious leaders. We are talking about people who read, share, and practise the teachings of the historical Jesus of the Bible... the one who was executed as a criminal... the one who predicted that his name would one day be used to represent all that he opposed. Such people are the only true Christians, for they are the only ones following the true Christ... Jesus Christ.

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