Friday, January 11, 2008

What is a Christian?

At times, what I hear people say about Christians amazes me. There seems to be a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about Christians. Some people say America is no longer a Christian nation, but whether or not that's true, America is still the most Christian nation in the world, and growing up here it's easy to assume most people understand what a Christian is. But recently, it sure seems like some people have some crazy ideas about us.

Matthew Murray, the shooter at New Life Church and the YWAM campus near Denver, reportedly posted to a web site a message that blamed Christians for all of the problems in the world. Authorities also reported that he had a lot of anger toward his own Christian family, not to mention the YWAM Christian ministry. Obviously I don't know what went on in his home or what angered him so. But whatever happened to him along with however he interpreted those events in his mind, he apparently came to the conclusion that "this is how Christians act" or "this is what Christians are." Therefore he hated Christians.

Remember when Rosie O'Donnell said radical Christianity is just as threatening to America as radical Islam? I'm not sure what Rosie meant by radical Christianity, but I have to wonder. Is she thinking of those few misguided individuals who tried to express their fervency for pro-life issues by bombing abortion clinics or killing abortion doctors? Is she thinking of those mean folks from the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas who protest at the funerals of military people holding signs that say "God hates gays" (or worse) and say that the deaths of our military service people are God's payment for America allowing gays in the military? Does Rosie see these folks and think, "There. Those are Christians. That's what Christians are like."

Please, Rosie...that group of people (mostly one family) is neither Baptist nor a church. These people are not Christians. Christians don't act like that. Not true Christians. And no mainstream Christian denomination or organization sanctions their behavior.

Occasionally, I hear other things said publicly about Christians, clues about what some people think Christians are. It's not very complimentary. I get the impression some (it's hard to tell how many) think Christians are mean. Dishonest. Simple-minded. Ignorant. Whiners. Overbearing. Wanting to force their faith on everyone else (as if that were possible). People who will convert you or kill you.

It's scary.

On a recent episode of Saving Grace, the incarcerated character was converting to Islam. He told Earl the angel that his parents were forced at the point of a sword (if I remember right) to convert to Christianity. (Um, they had that backwards. I've heard of Muslims making such threats and forcing such conversions--never Christians.)

No Christian would ever do that. Not a true Christian. That "conversion" would be absolutely meaningless. A forced conversion to Christianity is no conversion at all, because a true conversion is about what you truly believe about Jesus Christ--not what you profess under threat of death.

A Christian--a true Christian--believes Jesus is the Christ, the person God promised to send to save us from our sin. That's it. If you believe Jesus is that promised Messiah, you're a Christian. If you don't, you're not.

God doesn't force anyone to become a Christian. Rather, He works hard to capture our hearts and minds.

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