What follows is a list of seven things that are often put forth as being closely associated (if not self-identifying) with Christianity. When we study our Bibles, we will discover that none of them are sure-fire marks of what it means to be a Christian.
Many of us were told we would be happier if we became Christians or that in order to be faithful Christians, we must be happy. That is patently false. The shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Study the context. He was grieving. Paul was angry with Peter (Galatians 2:11-14), John advocated a measure of suspicion (1 John 4:1), and Jesus cried out that His “soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38). Do a biblical word study on “joy.” There is a big difference between joy and happiness. Jesus offers the former, and it is not always accompanied by the latter (John 15:11).
Some people have the idea that being a Christian means that everybody will both like and respect them. How many times have we ever heard the phrase “he’s a good Christian man” as a means of communicating how acceptable and even enviable a person is?
There is a reason why the cross is the worldwide symbol of Christianity. But in this day where a church is on nearly every street corner producing incredible competitiveness for parishioners, it is not deemed good salesmanship to remind those turning to Christ that He said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
Having their worldly needs met becomes quite the selling point among many in Christian circles. Whether its prosperity, healing of any sickness, or a perfect family and a golden retirement, promises are routinely made about how God favors good Christians with a myriad of “blessings.” But the reality is once again a bloody and painful cross. While the cross aptly communicates God’s love it also connotes pain, suffering, destitution, and death. How quickly we forget the cross and that every single one of Jesus’ apostles was tortured or martyred. Is this comfort?
People have the idea that becoming a Christian somehow puts them in some kind of socio-economic religious political majority. Everybody is a Christian, right? All that’s left in the world are a few holdouts.
There has never been a time when true Christians have been in the majority. Becoming a Christian does not put you in step with everybody else. In the parable of the sower and the seed, only a little of the seed produced the intended fruit. Not to mention that Jesus said the path to eternal life was narrow and few would ever make it while the path to destruction was wide and heavily traveled (Matthew 7:13-14).
The idea that Christians are more protected by God than non-Christians from calamity and evil abounds. That is why so many books and articles have been written about when bad things happen to good people. The kind of protection that God offers has little to do with the things of this world. There is an entire book of the Bible devoted to this: Job. Yes, God protected Daniel in the lion’s den, but it is also true that He permitted His own Son to be tortured by Roman authorities. Moreover, Jesus frequently reminded His followers that they would be persecuted.
Something that has mystified me most in my more than three decades as a pastor is how many “Christians” take umbrage at not being properly recognized. I’ve had parishioners threaten to quit church and/or stir up trouble in the congregation over not speaking to them at the grocery store or not saying “hello” as they walked by my office. Apparently, it never occurred to them that I may not have seen them while out shopping or that I might have been deep in thought (or even prayer) while in my office. And it’s not just parishioners. I’ve been berated for not publicly recognizing a visiting minister who attended the worship service. I mean, after all, the service was all about them, right?
Human nature yearns (more aptly put: demands) affirmation. All of us want a pat on the back, an award, and the approval of those around us. From our perspective, it’s not something we want as much as deserve. Just look at the LGBT movement. It wasn’t enough that they managed to change the very definition of marriage (that had been established for millennia). They want affirmation. They demand that everybody affirm their lifestyle. Interestingly, a fairly large segment of the church seems to agree with them. But isn’t forcing someone to affirm you kind of like insisting that your significant other says “I love you”? In Christianity, the only affirmation that means anything is “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
Dr. Ray Rooney. Originally posted on The Stand. Be on the lookout for the follow-up to this blog: 10 Things Christianity Does Mean.