From Frederick Buechner's Wishful Thinking, a Seeker's ABC,
"Some think of a Christian as one who necessarily believes certain things. That Jesus was the son of God, say. Or that Mary was a virgin. Or that the Pope is infallible. Or that all other religions are all wrong.
Some think of a Christian as one who necessarily does certain things. Such as going to church. Getting baptized. Giving up liquor and tobacco. Reading the Bible. Doing a good deed a day.
Some think of a Christian as just a Nice Guy.
Jesus said, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me' (John 14:6). He didn't say that any particular ethic, doctrine, or religion was the way, the truth, and the life. He said that he was. He didn't say that it was by believing or doing anything in particular that you could come to the Father. He said that it was only by him-by living, participating in, being caught up by the way of life that he embodied, that was his way.
Thus it is possible to be on Christ's way and with his mark upon you without ever having heard of Christ, and for that reason to be on your way to God though maybe you don't even believe in God.
A Christian is one who is on the way, though not necessarily very far along it, and who has at least some dim and half-baked idea of who to thank. A Christian isn't necessarily nicer than anybody else. Just better informed."
I like that last statement by Buechner. By the way, Buechner was the one who wrote the famous line, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." He also said, "You do not solve the mystery; you live the mystery." These quotes for me define being a "Christian" Living the mystery all the while leaning into the tension of ambiguity is what being a Christian is all about to me. It's not about being "nice" (Buechner's ending), Jesus was not necessarily nice but he was thoroughly and profoundly loving. Sidebar: I once came across a retired pastor and he said "Nice" people in churches were snakes simmering in honey. I always liked that. :-). Sidebar finished. :-).
Being a Christian is acknowledging who you belong to, and who you're accountable to...It's also about respecting the Story. The ugly and the beautiful. You might not like it or understand it, but you need to find a way to put it in a healthy perspective without blame and judgment.
Christian denominations are really faith seeking understanding (Anselm). It becomes a problem when that understanding starts pointing the finger at another, and sitting around and elaborating how one is better than another because they have one interpretation of faith different than the other. Faith is not a competition.
Or sometimes people are mired in the hurt caused by people in the name of religion. Not excusing or diminishing the hurt, but one of the most profound things I've learned in the last year is that when someone is deeply enraged at a certain religion, the inner struggle is really within themselves to heal from that hurt, or even an unrelated hurt. Complicated and messy....but I'm not sure it's an avenue to go down that ends up on the road to Apostasy.
Being a Christian is a Pilgrimage. It's allowing oneself to be seized by love, all the while falling down with plenty of scrapes, bruises and near misses. It's standing in humility, not succumbing to what's around or the falls, but grateful for the continuous redemption of grace.
I could go on and on; but I have two blogs to mention. One is a friend who wrestles with the term "Christian" in his most recent post. He writes, "For me, I was the Christian that turned me off. I was the one that “hurt” me. I was the hypocrite. And I did not want to be that anymore.
Of course, I feel that I was not really hypocritical in the typical sense. I was sincere in my faith, and I honestly tried hard to be genuine in the way I lived out my faith (I still do). But the word hypocrite comes from the Greek plays during which the actors wore masks to portray their characters. I look back and see that I was playing a role, (method acting maybe, because I was deeply sincere), and when it came to certain things, I was not being true to myself. And that ended up causing me serious internal, existential conflict.
And I can say that relieving myself of the burden of belief freed me to really pursue God in deep honesty. Today I feel that I am true to myself and true to that “still, small voice” inside me more so than when I was living the life of a model Christian. And while some areas of my life are definitely not easier, today I am more content and peaceful than I have ever been.
For more of the post, go to The Agnostic Pentecostal, the link is on the right as well. Another blog on my blogroll, very different than my friend above, is put together by several young women wanting to become leaders within the Christian faith. They are fellow classmates of mine at seminary. They struggle with some of the same issues in the arena of terms, expectations and definitions. What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to follow Christ? What does it mean for a woman to enter the pulpit, let alone the ministry? Their blog is called, The Prebyristas. From one of their recent posts by my friend Kelly, she writes, "
So in Carrie Bradshaw fashion, I can’t help but wonder, what does John 3:16 really mean? It’s like the Christian motto, a verse so well known that just its numbers will suffice as a reference. Is this verse truly what it’s all about? And should it be? The 4th grade Bible camper in me still equates John 3:16 with “the magic prayer”, a prayer consisting of three special lines that would reserve your spot in eternal paradise. It became a very complex equation:
3:16=belief in Christ=magic prayer=getting saved=no hell
Or the shorter version, 3:16= Fire Insurance
(Can I get on my soapbox for a moment? Christianity is not about fire insurance. Ok, stepping off now.)"
Often said for today...