Recently, I was on a walk with a friend and we were reflecting upon what it means to be a Christian and could we be one? My friend loves Jesus but could not associate himself with the Christian religion. He was tired from all of the spiritual abuse and legalism that he seemed to encounter so often. He asked me if I was and for a brief moment the only question that ran through my head was “What does that mean?”. If being a Christian means I hate gay people, I am overly Christian, that I am dogmatic about doctrine or orthodoxy, that I am always certain about my faith, my walk and my pursuit of God, then no, I am not a Christian. But, I don’t think it’s that easy. I don’t believe I should throw the baby out with the bath water. What does it mean to be a Christian? And, why should I be one?
Jurgen Moltmann once said “Why am I a Christian? Well, am I really a Christian? Am I so firmly and definitely a Christian that I can produce arguments to support the fact, as if it were something finished and done with, and open to proof? What is this ‘being’ of mine continually slips away from me when I want to lay hold of it as firmly as the question suggests? What if this ‘being a Christian’ that I am being asked about is not something at all? What if it is something that is in a continual process of becoming? What if our self-examination has to confess: I am a Christian and a non-Christian at the same time? Faith and doubt struggle within me, so that I have to continually cry out: ‘Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief!’ What if I am again and again thrown back to the beginning, where being and non-being wrestle with one another? For then I cannot produce any arguments for a secure and stable Christian existence. Then I have after all simply to tell about these threshold conflicts. This story of conflict can certainly provide other people with reasons for beginning to become a Christian; but the completion of ‘becoming’ into ‘being’ is still ahead, both for the narrator and the listener.
I can think of no better thing for me that becoming a Christian. I am a Christian, because I am becoming one. I am a Christian, because I am being remade in the image of God. I am a Christian, because I am becoming Christlike.
This is at the heart of some Philosophy today. With the whole notion of Truth up in there, its less of a matter of statements of belief and absolutes and more in line of “If I choose this, daily, what and who will it produce?” If it produces angry, religious, dogmatic, defenders of the Truth, then that is not worth becoming. But, if it looks like Jesus Christ, who in self-sacrificial love not only died on the cross and rose from the dead but also healed the sick, set the captives free and liberated people from spiritual and social oppression, then that is a person worth becoming.
I think most of us start as Christians from the one side of dogmatic and legalistic, but, hopefully we can become the fulfillment of the tradition and be transformed into the self-sacrificial, healing and loving liberator. I think this is a person worth becoming. This is something worth being in relationship. I can be this, because I want to become this. I hope to reconcile the latter with this.
What does it mean to you to be a Christian?
Are you a Christian? Or, are you like someone like Anne Rice who is following Christ outside the title?