I was born a Christian. That’s not a theologically correct statement, but it is a reality. There was never a time in my life when I could not be identified as a Christian. My father was a preacher, and even though I don’t remember, obviously, it’s likely the first place I was taken after birth was to church. That was the only place my parents ever went in those days.
I grew up in the church. There was no such thing as a nursery or a children’s program. I went to “big church,” held in my mother’s arms until I could sit and then I was placed on the pew next to her side. I stayed there until I was old enough to get permission to sit with a friend and his mom, but it was always at church.
I was eight or nine years old when I was baptized into the Christian faith after I made a public profession of faith. However, that experience did nothing to change my life. I had always lived my life as a Christian, so the fact that I was now “official” made no difference.
I was taught, and I memorized scripture. It was pounded deep into my consciousness, and God’s word became the guiding moral code of my life. It continues to be my guide for living to this day.
All my friends were Christians. I had friends at school, of course, but in my younger days, even those school friends went to our church. We didn’t do extracurricular activities that interfered with church plans. I’m not complaining. I had many friends from church, and I still have contact with many of them. I have always been a Christian among Christians.
I’ve worked a few non-Christian jobs over the years, but none of them stuck. Most of my life has been spent working for the church or Christian organizations. Even now, as I’m self-employed, much of my work is focused on Christian stuff. I am most well-known in Christian circles, and most of my friends are Christian, even on Facebook.
I’ve never hesitated to identify myself as a Christian. I didn’t go around advertising it, but if anyone asked, I was proud to say that I’m a Christian. I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to understand the Christian faith, helping Christian churches and organizations, and teaching Christian principles whenever possible.
Things have changed.
Now, when asked if I’m a Christian I must give it some thought, and I’m not always sure how to answer the question. I don’t voluntarily identify myself as a Christian nor do I ask anyone else if they are a Christian. To be honest, I’m embarrassed.
I’m embarrassed by…
- The fact that Christians have been identified with a political party that doesn’t always embody Christian principles (no political party does, by the way).
- The preponderance of Christians who are more willing to fight for the right to own a gun than they are to advocate for the welfare of the poor.
- The astounding number of Christians who can vocally and vociferously support an immoral leader of our country.
- The way Christians have confused Christianity with being American.
- The willingness of Christians to condemn people. They have gone far beyond identifying sin to the point of shunning sinners. They excuse this behavior using the phrase, “hate the sin but love the sinner” even though love is absent from their words and deeds.
- Christians who seem to admire the early church described in Acts 2 and how they shared possessions with all who had a need but then fight tooth and nail to prevent their tax dollars from providing health insurance for the poor.
- Robert Jeffress and First Baptist Church Dallas. I grew up with great admiration for that church. I only heard W.A. Criswell preach once, but he was mesmerizing. His successor, Joel Gregory, is probably the best preacher of my generation. Now, that church has a flaky goofball pastor who is willing to chase after any opportunity for fame and publicity. He’s the one who should be embarrassed.
- The preponderance of pastors who continually support the notion that our President is a Christian even though he makes no such personal confession or shows any evidence. What happened to being prophetic and speaking God’s Word to those in power?
- Franklin Graham who has thoroughly tarnished his father’s legacy.
- Those who think they have all the answers to life because they read the Bible. There are many blank spaces not filled in by scripture. There are very few absolutes in the Bible, yet many live and act as if there are many.
- The many Christians who get upset when people say, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” yet the church they attend has an American flag but no cross in sight.
These factors have become so pervasive that they fit the definition of what most people think of the term “Christian.” I’m not like that. I’ve never been like that, even though I’ve been a Christian from birth. I was never taught these things by the hundreds of Sunday School teachers, college professors, and seminary professors who have been in my life. I never saw these things acted out by any of the people I considered Christian in my growing up days.
Something has happened in the past couple of decades to change what it means to be Christian. I was taught that life is to be lived out in fulfillment of Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) not by singing, “God, Bless America.” It was instilled in me that when I’m attacked, then I’m supposed to turn the other cheek not wrap myself in the Second Amendment. I learned that the most important symbol of the faith is the cross, not the American flag. No one ever told me it was more spiritual to be a Republican or a Democrat. I grew up hearing Billy Graham say, “God loves you, and Jesus died for your sins,” not Franklin Graham saying, “homosexuals are instruments of Satan.”
I remember beaming with pride when given the opportunity to declare that I am a Christian, not because of anything I had done but because of what Jesus had done for me. Now I find myself avoiding the question when asked if I’m a Christian. I still rejoice in what Jesus has done for me, and what He continues to do for me every day, but I’m terribly embarrassed by the term Christian. I much prefer to be called a follower of Christ.
It’s much harder to be a “follower of Christ” than it is to be a “Christian.” It means you must love the unlovable, give what you possess to help others, turn the other cheek when threatened, and recognize this world is not your home. It also means you must forsake your own interests and pursue the interests of Christ. It also means that it doesn’t matter if you live in America or the densest jungle of South America or the driest desert in Africa or the most populous city in China.
A follower of Christ is free to love the things Christ loves, do the things Jesus did, and trust in the powerful hand of God, not the political or religious fads of the day. Perhaps the world would be better if we had fewer Christians and more followers of Christ.