Thursday, May 2, 2013

Following Jesus, Yet Not A Christian

"I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ." Gandhi

I, like Gandhi, do not like a good deal of those in the Christian religion. 'Wait a minute!', you might say, 'YOU are a Christian too, aren't you Matt?'. It all depends on your definition of what a Christian is. If by Christian you mean, one who is like Jesus, well then thanks, I'm humbled that when you look at/think of me, it reminds you of Jesus. However, I don't consider myself as having arrived at the destination of being "like Jesus". Don't get me wrong, I want to be "like Jesus". I take his teachings seriously, try to follow his instructions and example, and may very well be like him in some regard. I don't want to be that presumptuous to say that I am like Christ. Like I said, if others chose to refer to me as being Christlike, that is well and good, that seems to be the way the term "Christian" was first used anyway ( see Acts 11:26). So, how would I describe myself and my spirituality? Simply as a "follower of Christ". That's what Jesus called people to do, to follow him. He called people to follow his example, his teachings, and way of life.

So, isn't being a "Christian" and a "follower of Jesus" the same thing? I think it can be. If by following Jesus others call you "Christlike", then yes they can be one and the same. However, it is also possible(as is often the case) to claim to be a Christian or to be a part of the religion of Christianity without actually following Jesus. Many people claim to be Christians (Go to church, say and do Christian things, give money to the church etc), they want the salvation that Jesus offers, blessings from God, a spiritual country club to be a part of, but they are not following Jesus.

On this topic Gandhi said:

                 "The message of Jesus as I understand it, is contained in the Sermon on the Mount unadulterated and taken as a whole......If then I had to face only the Sermon on the Mount and my own interpretation of it, I should not hesitate to say, 'Oh, yes, I am a Christian.' But negatively I can tell you that in my humble opinion, what passes as Christianity is a negation of the Sermon on the Mount"

This is the #1 reason why I don't want to call myself a Christian. For so long, the message of Jesus, his teachings and commands for how to live life in the kingdom of God, have been diminished, downplayed, and negated by the Christian community at large.

Some examples:

Jesus told us to, turn the other cheek, love your enemies, do good to those who hurt you, yet Christians have in the past (as in the Crusades, Inquisitions, Witch Hunts, Conquering new lands etc), and still today go to war and kill not only their enemies but countless innocents as well.

Jesus constantly spoke of the dangers of relying on money and possessions of this world. He said that a rich man entering the kingdom of God would be like a camel going through the eye of a needle. He said not to worry about tomorrow, but trust and rely on God to provide for your food, shelter, and clothing. Yet, Christians don't look much different than anyone else when it comes to how they spend and save their money, the importance they place on having enough wealth to retire on, and the time they spend worrying about food, shelter and clothing.

Jesus said that we can't serve two masters. He claimed that He alone was the one we should give our allegiance to, no other king, country or ideal. Yet, Christians have raised our nation, Constitution, political party, and guns, to near idols. They have trusted in and promoted laws over and against the teachings of Jesus.

And finally, probably the largest difference between the Christian religion and the teachings of Jesus,  the issue of judging. Jesus said, do not judge for by the standard you use to judge will be how you are judged. He said that those without sin can cast the stone of judgement. What have we seen in the Christian religion ? Christians picking out their favorite sins that they see in others, like homosexuality, abortion, or how to dress, and downplaying or ignoring others that Jesus says are more important like, how we treat our neighbors and enemies, greed, pride, self-righteousness, and ignoring the needy of the world.

I'm not judging Christians. I'm not trying to say who is going to heaven and who is not. All I'm saying is that when I look at the vast majority of the history of Christianity(including today), most of the time, people are not following Jesus. They certainly don't look very much like him, which is what they are claiming to be when taking the name of a Christian. So in short, I'm not particularly fond of calling myself a Christian for two reasons. First, I am not presumptuous enough to claim to be "like Christ". Second, the word "Christian", historically and currently has been associated with many views, ideas, and beliefs that are contrary to the teachings of Jesus.

So where does that leave me? With Gandhi...... If I follow the teachings of Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount, then yes... I am a Christian. Also, sadly I must say: I do not like your Christians, they are so unlike your Christ.   


  1. I really enjoyed reading this Matt! It has such a deep concept to that most "Christians" don't even want to hear about. This post really made me think about why I call myself a Christian, when I have certainly not arrived at Christlikeness! Thank you for sharing this :)

  2. This post is oh so true...something I have been thinking a LOT about the past few years. It grieves me to think what the world sees in some people (a very high number in all honesty) who call themselves Christens. And I would say you are very right in that one of the main things, I would say the root of a LOT of them, is that we judge...I say "we" because I am one of them...the Lord in His grace is working on me in this area and I am staring to see a change...not because of anything I did, but because I asked Him to root it out of me. I couldn't do it myself, it is in me too deep, but He CAN change us! He is so good...keep working Lord, change me and make me more like You. So that people can see YOU flooding out of me.

  3. I love it, Matt! I was just baptized in the name of Jesus this past November at the age of 27, but I also don't call myself a Christian. My friends and family not only don't understand, I don't think it's within their limits to comprehend this concept. Some people just cannot receive the Logos (Greek word, google it if you're not familiar with it's concepts. "In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God."). I have found that even relying on a single English translation of the Bible can be misleading because of the Christian minds that have interpreted and translated it into the common versions we find today. My Bible concordance has been a great help for me while reading the Bible. Blue Letter Bible is helpful too, they have a website and a smart phone app.

    I relate and agree with everything you said above, except that about judgement. Given, this is still something I'm working through myself and by no means am I an excellent teacher on this topic, but I don't think it's possible to live a life without judgement. I mean that on a deeper level than, "Nobody's perfect." For example, choosing between vanilla or chocolate ice-cream is a form of judgement. At our most basic and fundamental existence we use judgements to navigate through our worlds. Should I or shouldn't I tithe? How much? Should I buy the blue or green shirt? Will she like the roses or the tulips more? These are all judgments. Matthew ch.7 has a beautiful message on judgement. This is one of the places where it says do not judge, but that is an incomplete message. The gospel goes on to explain that you should first work out your own problems before trying to judge other people for theirs. Jesus, being the perfect son of our Lord, had every right to judge and condemn us men, but he humbled himself and came instead as a servant. Yet from time to time his teachings are judgmental (check out John 8:15-16). You mentioned the passage where Jesus says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. If you were to say that to a rich person today, would they not receive that as a judgement on them? I think the important thing is that you don't want to do/say anything that will be a stumbling block for others to join and harmonize with you in your faith. If that means keeping your thoughts to yourself at times, do so. If it means dishing out judgment, there IS a time for judgment.

    "The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one." 1 Corinthians 2:15

    There are many ways to read and interpret the above message and it is not my intention to indoctrinate you with my own thoughts, but when contemplating the above passage I highly recommend reading the whole chapter before coming to any conclusions about your right to judge.

    Peter's first letter to the church in Corinth also talks a great deal about judging those INSIDE the church, and letting God judge those outside the church. 1 Corinthians ch.5/6 specifically touch on this topic. It is also written here that the saints will judge the world and the angels.

    I hope that I have been helpful and that my words have been well received. God bless you, your wife and your child. I will pray for your well being.

    1. Friend,

      I don't mean to debate or start an argument but it seems to me that you have confused the two concepts of judging and making choices. The examples you gave (deciding which ice-cream to eat, clothes to wear, or what gifts to give someone)are all instances of individual every-day choices that we all make in this world. However, these choices are a completely different and separate matter than what I and Jesus are talking about on the issue of judging. The form of judgement where we as mortals put ourselves in the place of God (trying to decide who is in or out of salvation or a relationship with God) is always condemned in scripture. Yes, Jesus said "do not judge" but continued by saying "for the measure you use to judge others will be how the Father judges you". You are also correct that Jesus, as God come to us in flesh, had the right to judge us men yet he did not. Instead he chose to lovingly serve and give his life for us. That being said, we are called to follow Jesus in his example of how to live this life. Therefore, we also (as mere men) should refrain from judgement as Jesus did. The main point of my paragraph on judging was to point out the self-righteous judgmental attitude of many in Christendom today and throughout history is another example of Christians not looking very much like Christ.
      Carry on.

  4. I just discovered your blog and am so glad I did. This post speaks to me. You've put in a succinct way snatches of thoughts and conversations I've had with friends recently.

    Your thoughts on the pledge are interesting as well. In Texas schools, we pledge to the United States flag and the Texas flag daily. And then have a moment of silence...rather than a pledge/prayer. Ironic.

  5. I was quite interested in reading your articles because of the similarities to my own site.
    It's true! Christians can be at times be the worst examples of what it is to be "Christ like". I found so often in my own story Christians turn on their own, along with the histories you mention.
    Christians need to be challenged, otherwise what do they have to offer as examples of 'Godliness' that any other religion, or even the non believer in anything offer just by being a loving person. Cheers!

  6. Matthew 7:7: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

    The best teaching I ever personally heard on this passage made the point that observing and truthfully noting behavior and what people say is not judging. Judging in this context involves making a permanent assessment of someone's character, from which there is no possibility of repentance and redemption. Only God can make those sorts of just judgments.

    For example, if I lie and you know the truth. It is not judging me to say that I lied. It is judging me to call me a "liar." I know that might seem like splitting hairs. However, these guidelines have served me well for the past 15 years or so. Behavior is in bounds. Character is out of bounds (unless, you would like someone to permanently judge your character).

    BTW, I offer this blog post of mine as food for thought:

    Blessings and peace, 'Mo Speric

  7. Enjoying your blogs very much.