What is a Christian? (Hospitality II)
Salvation is about fully entering into the reign of God, in both this world and in the world to come. This entry happens through knowing who God is. This is why Jesus says that salvation is knowingGod the Father and Jesus himself.This knowledge is not conceptual, it’s actual; it’s a growing, whole-life experience. Our Greco-Roman tradition tend to philosophize knowledge, making it something theoretical that exists largely within our own heads. The Hebrew people, on the other hand, tended to make knowledge concrete. What is real is not theory, but what is actually experienced. If you want to know who a Greek person is, learn what they think; if you want to learn who a Hebrew person is, go and live with them for a week. This is the sort of concrete experience Jesus points to when he talks about “knowing God.”
Isaiah 58 (and the entire witness of Scripture) make clear that this God-knowledge only fully blooms as we follow Jesus and as we rearrange and reorder our life in obedience to his leading, learning to be forothers as God is for us. Being a Christian means being transformed by the love of God in such a way that we become confident—despite full awareness of our weaknesses—of our belovedness in God. From this confidence, empowered by the Spirit, we love others, making present the reign of God.
But this is perhaps not how those around us think of “being a Christian.” We live in a world where the word “Christian” is heavily diluted or means many different things to different people. Recent studies of American youth reveal that their top connotations with Christianity are “hypocritical,” “judgmental,” and “anti-gay.”There’s not much notion among millennials of Christians as those who make manifest new hope and life.
What a tragedy.
It’s a tragedy because Scripture makes it clear that redemption and reconciliation are meant to be mediated by those who follow Jesus. Romans 8 makes it clear: It’s through people who are fully aware of their adoption in Jesus that God plans to heal the world.How then do we move into this posture of Jesus in the world? How do we embrace this posture that renews and makes hopepresentwhere, before, there was despair? How might we reclaim the word “Christian”?
We need to keep the image of Jesus ever before us, and also to prayerfully ask the Spirit of God to help us live into the same posture of Jesus.
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See unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Mattersby David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. Baker Books. Grand Rapids, MI. 2007.
Romans 8:19-21: “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.”