What Makes You A Christian? What Gives You That Right?


What makes you a Christian? No, this is not an academic inquiry, as if I am asking you a non-controversial question like how tall are you, or what primary school did you attend or if you had a good breakfast this morning. No, I am neither seeking a quotation of Bible verses nor some fancy theological explanation. I am not seeking information as regards the elements that come together to produce a Christian for, in truth, that is very well known.

Everyone who knows anything about Christianity knows that being a Christian is about believing in Jesus Christ, and his redemptive work on the cross, and committing to him through the grace of Almighty God. Sometimes these persons are referred to as born again Christians, or committed Christians, or merely saved or converted.

That's fine. That is what makes anyone a true follower of Jesus Christ, but the question is not what makes someone a Christian. The question is more pointed, hence more delicate. What makes you a Christian? What gives you the right, the boldness to stand up and say, "I am a Christian."

Some years ago I carried out a year-long evangelical campaign in a certain area of Barbados, and during the campaign I visited a certain house and spoke to a woman. During our conversation I asked her if she was a Christian, and she said yes, she attends church every Sunday, and some days in the week as well; and she sings in the church choir.

To be truthful, that was like music to my ears, and then I asked her another question. Have you ever accepted Jesus Christ as your personal saviour? And she answered promptly. No.

The good news is that this woman did accept Jesus Christ, then and there, found peace with God, and was happily converted.

All these situations do not end as well, some people would argue that they are as much Christian as you are, even though they have not been converted, and who are you or anybody else to judge them.

True, we sometimes become very judgmental, and judge people harshly for even minor indiscretions, and sometimes we do even greater foolishness without the slightest hesitation. But that is not the issue here.

The real issue to consider

That woman thought she was a Christian by going to church regularly and singing in the church choir. The rich man who questioned Jesus in Matthew 19:16 thought he had eternal life and lacked nothing, and the five foolish virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 thought they were just fine. But all these people suffered from the same problem.

Misconception, self-delusion, mistaken belief.

In church, I have often wondered how many of us in the congregation would go with Jesus if he appeared now. Not because I question someone's, or my own, standing in Christ, but because I know that the warning to "give diligence to make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10) is often not taken with due gravity.

Personally, I would rather you judge me harshly, and point out to me what you think I am doing wrong, and at least give me a chance to consider my ways, rather that you not saying anything, and I wake up in eternity facing the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20: 11-13.

Christianity is pure religion, consisting of nothing that is inappropriate or unacceptable to God. Pure religion has God's approval, is what true worship is about, and in all of its manifestations you see that which is uplifting to humanity.

So what is pure religion, and how do Christians exemplify it for the world to see?

Let us start with Brother James and his amazing, crystal-clear definition:
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27)

Let us break down what James is saying to its essential core, for this helps us to get to the heart of the matter. James said that pure religion was about caring for people and living morally upright.

Now let us turn to Micah as he addressed God's requirement for social justice:
"He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8)

Micah and James are saying the very same thing but in a different way. Micah was about caring for people (do justly, and to love mercy) and living morally upright (walk humbly with thy God).

And then Jesus summed it all up beautifully when dealing with a lawyer:
"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40)

Jesus said here quite clearly that it comes down to two things. First "love the Lord thy God" and second "love thy neighbour as thyself" and if we are honest, we have to accept that many people still do not get it, among these are people who claim to be Christian.

It is impossible for someone to be a Christian and not love God, or do not have compassion towards fellow humans. That is what Jesus was saying, and what James was saying, and what Micah was saying.

If it is one thing that loving God does, and be assured that loving God inspires and impels Christians to do many things, then know for sure that loving God generates true compassion.

How do you feel when you see something that is awful; like a thug punching an old lady into unconsciousness because she would not let him snatch her handbag?

How do you feel when you see a hand-cuffed youth on the ground being brutalised by a police officer?

What is your reaction when you witness or hear of a young boy being abandoned in a forest by his parents because he was naughty?

How do you feel when you hear of an injured, poor man being refused treatment at a hospital because he had no medical insurance?

How do you feel when you hear of a hungry lad who took a slice of bread from the fridge and was subsequently whipped by his dad until his skin was bleeding all over.

The big question is this. How would Jesus feel or act in each of these situations?

The problem we have, and alas, some people who call themselves Christians are just as guilty, is that our minds are corrupt and we see people as white people, black people, brown people, red people, immigrants, indigenous, rich people, poor people and such like.

Jesus sees people as God's children in need of salvation, and for whom he died.

True Christians see individuals as our brothers and sisters; faulty, sinful, even criminal at times, wayward and rebellious, but to the last someone who is capable of living a transformed life in Christ. If you have not transitioned to this level of spirituality, if your hope is not for their salvation, then you are not in sync with Jesus Christ. Can you then describe yourself as a Christian?

Enough said.

Also read: How You Can Develop and Maintain the Right Attitude for Your Daily Life

Books by this author you may wish to read.

Volume 1 Five tough facts to be faced

Volume 1 You must first identify him




Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. You may email him at drhendersonward@yahoo.com