“Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”– Philippians 3:12
This weekend I had the opportunity to speak to a group of students for a church youth event. It was a great honor and privilege to have been given the chance to speak into the lives of these young people allowing for God to reveal Himself to them during that time…hopefully. As I shared the message of freedom in Christ and helping them see that God sees them where they are, I noticed that there were many who raised their hand when asked if they already knew Jesus. This group was not a group of students where only a few knew of Christ and possibly made a decision, but from my observation, most had, if not all. However, there were still many of those who raised their hand that seemed to be seeking to understand what it meant to follow Christ.
I thought to myself, “I wonder if we have made it too difficult?” Then I asked myself, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” This is a perplexing thought for me, so I could imagine how hard it must be for a teenager trying to figure out their own identity. I recognized that maybe, just maybe, being a Christian means too much for them and possibly for most. There are probably many ideas as to what Christianity really means and possibly many answers, but let’s look at some questions and see what the Bible says.
Does Christianity mean perfection? Well, yes, but not now. Does Christianity mean a change in language? Well, yes, but not right away and not necessarily all the time. Does Christianity mean a new outfit that must be pressed and clean for church? Well, that’s nice, but no. So, what does it mean to be a Christian?
I think there are several verses to look at, but I want to focus on two. Micah 6:8 is one. Micah 6:8 shares “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (NASB) God lays out the standard by His prophet Micah. We must love justice or what is right in the eyes of God. We must love kindness, or mercy in some translations, the way God shows mercy to all of us. Finally, we must walk humbly, knowing that we are nothing without God. It is His for His glory we walk this earth and not our own.
The second verse that supports Micah’s is found in James 1:27 where it is written “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (NASB) It is not about the church we go to in this world; on the contrary, it’s if we are being the Church to the world. When we care for the widows and orphans we are loving justice and mercy. When we keep our self “unstained by the world” we are making sure we remain humble enough to do the first part of the verse. The world tells us to watch out for number one and take care of our own needs. If we are to be “unstained” then our life is centered on Christ’s desires and the heart of God. Then, it allows us to follow His plan for what His people look like.
We will not be perfect. We can dress nice, but God does not care about outward appearances and neither should we. We may change our language, but even nice words, if fake, are not glorifying to God. Let us not make Christianity too difficult on ourselves or others. Let God’s word speak to what it means to be a Christian. Gregory of Nyssa said “This is true perfection: not to avoid a wicked life…nor to do good because we hope for rewards…On the contrary…we regard falling from God’s friendship as the only thing dreadful and we consider becoming God’s friend the only thing worthy of honor and desire.” Love justice, love mercy, and walk humbly, then God’s friendship we will have.