I am blessed with a lovely church community. It’s a small community with some representation for each stage of life, from infancy to seniority. I love the connections I feel with people from any age group there.
One day, I did a fly-by drop-by at the home of one lovely, flirty lady with years of living experience under her belt. We sat, had tea, cuddled my pet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was my come-with, and chatted up a storm.
Because I just couldn’t resist, I told her that she is one of the reasons why I love this church.
“Well, she said, does that make me a Christian?”
Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to answer her.
You see, I struggle with this. What makes us Christians?
If we are Christians because of our relationship to God, well, I’m pretty sure I’m fucked, as are probably a lot of people. Relationships require 2-way, authentic communication. As much as we hear that scripture is God’s letter to us, well, let’s face it—it’s kind of impersonal to send one universal mass letter. Does that sound like intimate communication to you?
Oh sure, someone would point out that this is why we have prayer. If we are still enough, we can hear God’s voice. Ah, I reply, but in 1st Kings, God’s voice to Elijah was....silence....[http://biblehub.com/1_kings/19-12.htm]
And what about Christians around us, who have 30 prophetic words and visions before breakfast? I’ve been a self-identified Christian since 1989, and I can count on one hand how many prophetic words or visions I’ve had, and still have fingers left over. And believe me, it wasn’t for lack of belief or trying— I just got a lot of silence. The point is, being a Christian just doesn’t work that way for everyone.
If we are Christians because of doctrine, well good luck with that one. How often do we hear about splinter groups because their church “left the path of righteousness”? How often can we read the same Scripture, and yet be of different denominations with a smug self-assurance that “we got it right”? Can we really honestly say that Christ was crucified so that one church branch in the Xth century could be doctrinally correct?
Look up all the heresies out there, and find out how many you fall into. You can’t describe the indescribable without hitting some heresy somewhere.
If we are Christians because we have professed a specific statement of faith, then what is it—the words or the statement of them that makes us Christians? Is someone going to hell because they didn’t get the right pamphlet with the correct salvation incantation?
If we are Christians because of our faith—we are all screwed. Not one of us can truthfully say there has never been a smidge, a mote, a mite of doubt that has visited the most sparkly, glossy, autographed faith.
If we are Christians because we do good things—bullshit. I could elaborate, but I truly don’t think I need to .
If we are Christians because we are on a journey—well, good for you! So is every thinking person on this earth. Hope you packed a lunch.
According to Lewis: [Cited in Scott Hoezee,The Riddle of Grace. GrandRapids: Eerdmans, 1996, pg 42]
CS Lewis answered that question in a way that I can live with at this time in my life.
During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of returns from death. The debate went on for some time until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room. "what's the rumpus about?" he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded," Oh, that's easy. It's grace."
Honestly, God’s grace is only way I can be a Christian. Because I suck at absolutely everything else.