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.