A good friend of mine, one whose opinion I hold in high regard, recently commented on what it means to be a Christian. He said: "I settled on this definition: Anyone who says he's a Christian is a Christian. One reason this works is that Christians can't agree on a definition anyway so mine's as good as any." Like many of the other things he's said or written in the past, his words played around in my head for several days. The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how thorny of a proposition it is to pin down what it means to be a Christian. Moreover, I realized that his definition eliminates the problem of Christians disowning each other because of minor/major differences in doctrine - something which my own posts and comments have indicated that I abhor.
His comments also prompted me to ask a few questions of myself: Am I as tolerant as I thought I was? Do I truly accept anyone who claims to be a Christian as my brother or sister in Christ? How do I define what it means to be a Christian?
In the meantime, something happened at work that brought more clarity to my own thinking on the subject. My new boss announced that her priorities in life were God, family and our business. "Sounds good," I thought; but there was also a whisper of a voice in my head that said, "We'll see!"
I didn't have to wait long. This past week, it was announced that everyone's hours in our part of the business would be changing. Instead of working from 7 AM to 4 PM, everyone would be required to work 4 AM to 1 PM. I, along with my coworkers, quickly realized that this would present a whole host of problems for a large number of people. What about college students, people with second jobs or spouses who worked other shifts/hours, people with health problems, folks who had small or school age children, employees who worked part-time and the folks who had transportation issues? How could the folks who worked 8 AM to 5 PM Monday thru Friday in nice offices implement a policy that would work such havoc in the lives of their worker bees? Would there be any accommodation or compassion in implementing these new hours? The answer was basically NO! They would have to "work with" college students. "There's no way around that, I'm required by law to work with them," she grudgingly admitted.
I was sitting there in disbelief listening to all of this, and her modified traditional Christian statement of priorities (It's usually expressed as God, family and country) came to my mind. I slowly raised my hand and said, "Those of us who list God as a priority in our lives generally attempt to follow the Golden Rule (Treat others the way that you would like to be treated)." "How would all of you (upper management) like it if someone suddenly required all of you to work these hours?" I asked. There was a moment of stunned silence as everyone absorbed the implications of what I had said, which was quickly followed by angry indignation. I had had the audacity to point out that her public profession did not comport with the standard of behavior implicit in such a profession.
In the back of my mind, I could hear the words of Jesus: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21) He had also said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27) Paul had declared, "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." (Romans 8:9) He went on to list the fruits (or evidence) that one had that Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) So, according to Jesus and Paul, BEHAVIOR was the key to properly defining a Christian. One had to have the Spirit, and the evidence that one had that Spirit was love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, etc. Nevertheless, Christ had also warned against snap judgments of people. (Matthew 7:1-5) Evidence requires observation and observation requires time. There are moments when I'm not patient or kind - does that mean that I am not a Christian?
The moment of clarity - I had my own definition of what it means to be a Christian. It isn't one's adherence to a set of beliefs or doctrines. It isn't one's profession of Christianity. It isn't one's name on the membership roles of some human organization. It isn't going to church every Saturday or Sunday. It isn't wearing a cross around one's neck or refusing to wear makeup. A person is a Christian when he/she is attempting to behave like Jesus Christ - one who is attempting to exhibit the merciful, compassionate and healing nature which the founder of the movement exhibited during his lifetime on this planet. In other words, don't tell me you're a Christian - SHOW ME that you're a Christian!
Are there Christians among the ranks of the upper management where I work? I don't know. I do know, however, that their behavior in this instance was not consistent with this definition of who many of them claim to be. Are there Christians among the ranks of the Armstrongites? Based on my own observations, I believe there are many Christians among them - not because of what they say they believe, but because of the way they live their lives. How do you define what it means to be a Christian? Are you a Christian?