Saturday, 21 December 2013
What if we evaluated peoples Christianity differently?
I don’t know if it has something to do with growing up a Protestant, but I tend to categorize people by the beliefs that they hold to. For example, the first question I would normally think about someone is “Is this person a Christian?”, once that is confirmed I may ask something like “so where do you go to church?” This question is not so much about the location where one fellowships as it is about finding out what kind of a Christian someone is (Catholic, Baptist, the TBN type etc).
Apart from where dodgy things are being taught and practiced, I have grown to appreciate the variety within Christianity and actually seek out ways that we can learn from each other. But I have also started to realize that the beliefs we hold are not the way that scripture defines ones faithfulness and walk. It is true that our doctrines are important; I don’t think anyone would deny that. But maybe we have placed a little too much faith in our intellectual understanding of Christianity rather than in the fruits that reveal genuine signs of a living and growing faith within us.
Jesus never said that we will know who his followers were by their creeds, even if there is value in defining our beliefs. What he did say was that we would recognize his own by the fruits evident in their lives (Matt 7:20) and by the love they have one for another (John 13:35). Nowhere are the signs of this more clearly illustrated than in Acts chapter 2:44-46
Now all who believed were together and had all things in common and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.
The longer I am a Christian, the more I realize that charity and love are the surest signs of a genuine relationship with God. Jesus spoke much where the religious were portrayed as outsiders while the meek and despised ones received his praise, think of the Good Samaritan or the poor widow who gave the last of what she had at the temple. Think of how it says in scripture that even the giving of a glass of water to someone does not go unnoticed. Think of Hosea 6:6 that says God desires mercy not sacrifice. Think of how James spoke rather tongue in cheek about religion and pointed out that pure and undefined religion is not about rules or regulations, but about visiting widows and orphans in their trouble and keeping oneself unspotted from the world.
Think of the final judgment where the sheep are separated from the goats (Matt 25:32-46). Once again we are not separated by denomination or creed, but by works that were the evidence of an authentic relationship with Jesus.
Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you...for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you visited me... inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me.
When I evaluate my walk by intellectual standards, I hold my head high, sure there is a heck of a lot that I do not know and I am probably wrong in a few places where I think that I am right but I still think that I am pretty well educated when I start comparing myself to others. But when I start evaluating my walk by Galatians 6:2 which says “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”, then I start to get a little anxious and humbled. This may sound like a works oriented gospel to some; it’s not intended as one. God is slowly stripping me of my selfishness, self righteousness and self centeredness so that I can start to look more like the only person who ever lived that was truly “others centered”. Love for God and for others are not just commandments, they are the true marks of a believer.