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.
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.