Being Christian vs. Doing Christian

I’m no Biblical scholar, but parts of the Bible, especially parts of the New Testament, I think are pretty clear.

Those who know me know that I tend to be pretty liberal in my thinking and persuasions. However, when it comes to my faith persuasion, I’m not as liberal as some. Take the popular author of Christian books and articles, John Shore. John wrote the bestselling books, “Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang” and “I’m Okay, You’re Not – The Message We Send to Nonbelievers, and Why We Should Stop”. Like me, John maintains a blog to which he posted a piece a few years back by almost the same name as this post: Doing Christian vs. Being Christian. He makes the point in his posting that the Bible is complicated, too complicated for most of us to truly understand, which is why we rely upon others who have gone to seminary for four years just so that they could begin to understand it. By contrast, he wrote, “God himself, though, is the ultimate in uncomplicated—and, via the Holy Spirit, is or can be as fresh and new to you as the very moment in time in which you’re reading this.”

Okay, I buy that. But John sums up his post claiming that we don’t have to do anything about what God, in the person of Jesus Christ, did for us on earth, and that we certainly don’t have to make ourselves worthy of it.

Hmmmmm… Now, perhaps I don’t fully understand the message that John was making on this subject of doing vs. being Christian, but if I do understand it, John is way more liberal than I am when it comes to faith. I’m no Biblical scholar, but parts of the Bible, especially parts of the New Testament, I think are pretty clear. For example, Acts 2:42 – 47 about the fellowship of believers.

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Is this not telling us that by accepting Christ as Lord and Savior, converts to the early church were changed and began to live their lives differently? If this is true, then are we not expected to change also, to be more loving and more generous? Surely, we can never hope to make ourselves worthy of Christ’s love and sacrifice. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Consider also, that which is written in 1 Peter, 2:19 – 25 about enduring unjust suffering.

“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Is this not telling us that by accepting Christ as Lord and Savior we are suppose to behave in ways that are pleasing to God?

So I take exception to John’s message, as I understand it. We do have to do something in response to what Christ did. We have to live, not for ourselves so much as for God, through worship, prayer and service to our fellow man.

We all know of many who proclaim themselves to be Christian but seldom, if ever, attend worship services. Seventy-six percent of Americans make this claim, but less than forty percent are church goers. Of that number, I wonder how many do more than just occasionally occupy a pew to enjoy the music, snooze through the sermon and drop a dollar or two in the collection plate.

Consider the messages found in Matthew 7:21.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

The operative word, for me in this passage, is “does.” Only he who does the will of God will ever enter the kingdom of heaven. And isn’t that the whole point of being Christian? So, is it even possible to be Christian without doing Christian? And what is doing Christian anyway? Is it not living our lives, to the extent humanly possible, after the example of Christ and the teachings of His Apostles — loving God, worshiping and studying His word, praying constantly, and sacrificially doing for others?

Please feel free to comment pro or con on this post.

Published in: on May 12, 2011 at 11:27 am  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. First time I agree with you . Some people can Talk the talk but they can’t Walk the walk . Either the can’t or won’t .

  2. Well said, Kent. I am so tired of folks worrying so much about what happens to them after they die..instead of worrying and doing something about life here on earth.

  3. Opa, what a wonderful article. I appreciate the dialogue that it created. It gives me pause to think and try to wrap this around the gray matter. After all is said and done, “…as for me & my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)NIV

  4. Good article and I have not read John’s side, but I think that there are two new commandments in the New Testament. 1- Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind and 2 – Love your neighbor as yourself. Going to church doesn’t make you more of a Christian than someone who his saved and does not go to church. Just like sitting in your garage does not make you a car. I attend church because of several reasons. I enjoy the fellowship and I enjoy being fed by the preacher. However, as Christians we must mature and read the Bible ourselves and not continue to be “spoon fed” from the preacher just on Sunday. I don’t think we can “try” to be good enough to earn our way into heaven. If so, then Jesus dying on the cross has nothing to do with salvation. Of course, we all know that it did. And that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father, except through Him (John 14:6). I do see John’s point about “I’m Okay, You’re Not – The Message We Send to Nonbelievers”. Is church a place where people pretend to be OK because that’s what we’re supposed to be? Or is it a safe place where we can get real with another and ask for help and offer prayers and truly mean it? Are we mechanical in our attempt to look normal when someone asks how we are. “Fine and you? I’m praying for you brother/sister”. Are we? Are really fine? Are we really praying for that person? I think there is no difference between a saved person and an unsaved person EXCEPT that the saved person will go to heaven and the unsaved person won’t. I believe it is our duty to go out and witness to the world, but I agree with your article that we can witness by our actions. We can be like Jesus, and shine His light in a dark world. We must be motivated with our heart to act out of love and not out of “trying to earn salvation”. My favorite scripture is I Samuel 16:7 “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart”. People see what we do, but God knows why we do it.

  5. I want to clarify one comment in there being no difference in a saved and unsaved person. The saved person has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which causes us to respond to situations differently than an unsaved person; BUT the saved person is still capable of sin just like the unsaved person. The saved person can ask for forgiveness and will receive it; BUT the unsaved person can also ask for forgiveness of sins and be saved. There is no sinless Christian, except for Jesus Christ. Thank you Lord for salvation.

  6. Thank you, Tina. Your testimony is impressive.

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