The simple mark of a Christian


I am a Jesus-believing sinner at the foot of the Cross who hesitates when marking the “religious preference” box on personal information questionnaires.

“Roman Catholic,” “Orthodox,” “Protestant,” and maybe a blank beside “Other,” typically are the Christian choices.  Rarely – in fact I think never – have I seen a box that simply says “Christian.”   Since “Christian” is all I really want to be, whenever possible I check “Other” and write in “Christian.”  It’s minor mischief that makes me smile.  Here endeth the rebellion.

This is not to disrespect those who check a different box.  I deeply appreciate Christianity’s rich and diverse doctrinal history – John 1:14, Christ on the Cross, Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension, the Pentecost, the Apostles, the Revelation, the church fathers, the canonization of the Bible, the heresies, Rome, Constantinople, Orthodoxy, the Council of Nicaea, the Great Schism, the Reformation, the Great Awakenings, the Evangelical Movement and on up to Humanae Vitae, the modern Popes, televangelism (for better or worse), and contemporary worship.

It is of great intellectual comfort to my own faith knowing that smart, spiritual humans have been thinking, interpreting, praying and writing about Christian doctrine for 2,000 years.  What I encounter on any given day as a Christian, including any given Sunday at worship, may be refreshing, enlightening and new.  But I know that Christianity is old, that God is eternal, and that Jesus is more than an idea.  Jesus, the person who is also God, is the perfect and complete image of God’s original plan for a Creation that glorifies.

Fallen humans are errantly prone to heap superfluous constructs – i.e., legalisms – upon otherwise simple faith in Christ; faith that should lift us atop God’s foundational glory of love, grace, mercy, freedom and joy.  Too often that faith becomes buried beneath worldly systems and suffocated by sin, fear, guilt, works and sadness.

I mourn for churches that sacrifice the truth of the Bible for the weight of tradition, and lament churches that perilously ignore tradition while over-worshipping expedient scripture paraphrases.  I shake my head when churches promote worldly and off-point dogmas of “Jesus as Homeboy” or the “Prosperity Gospel of Me and My Needs.”  The “living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9) created, loves and pursues humanity.  We are to love God, pursue His truth in Christ, and share that truth, that spirit, in love and service, with others.  Christ should be the center of all.

By believing in Christ, I am not burdened with having to believe in anything else.

All I have to do is mark “Christian.”

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