I happened to tune into a secular national radio talk show one day when the host announced his next segment would be with a popular NFL quarterback who was stirring up a lot of interest in Christianity because of his unblinking stance for his faith. I had become quite a fan of this young man myself and, since this radio host was known for giving a wide berth to his guests, I looked forward to hearing if, or how, the QB would present the gospel on such a huge platform.
The host’s opening comments were a gush, not on his guest’s football skills, but on his faith and how impressed he was by it. The host confessed that he had “Christian tendencies” and that he wasn’t sure, but he might be a Christian, although he had never been led to testify about it. “Is that part of the drill?” he asked the young QB, opening the door – by his own invitation – to a clear presentation of what it really takes to be called a Christian.
Wow! What an opportunity to speak of Jesus Christ!
I once heard a hall of fame baseball player say that when a hitter is in “the zone” every pitch he sees is like a beach ball coming his way. Was this ever a beach ball waiting to be smacked out of the park! I sat there excited for him to drive it over the fence.
But the young man proceeded to liken telling others about your faith to telling them about your favorite movie. He went on to demonstrate how he seeks to draw people to Christianity by telling them: “Hey, this is something that’s awesome. It works for me and it’s something that I believe in and you should try it.”
My heart sank. It’s awesome and you should try it. Really? He made putting one’s faith in Christ sound like sampling sports drinks. This one tastes good to me but if you don’t like the flavor you can just try another!
And this from a popular flag-bearer of mainstream Christianity.
Swing! Miss! Yikes!
Options or Certainty?
I do not doubt the sincerity of this young man’s faith in Christ but, sadly, I do think he represents the way a lot of people view faith today. In a world of too many options, we find ourselves treating faith like a trip to the mall; shopping around for just the right one to suit our fancy with little regard to the truth behind it. Becoming a Christian is, quite literally, a life-or-death proposition (Jn. 5:24-29, Heb. 9:27-28, etc.) and the believer must be ready and able to boldly proclaim that truth. Otherwise, we make it sound like nothing but one more option among many from which to choose our own unique path to Heaven.
In many ways, the ringing cry of “Diversity!” has so infiltrated the mainstream Christian worldview that we are either insensible to our own uniqueness among the people of the world (1 Pet. 2:9-10) or simply too afraid to be different. Maybe we have been taught it is better to fit in with the world so we can have a broader evangelical platform from which to work. Or perhaps we are so eager to see church buildings filled that we have never stopped to contemplate what it really means to be called a Christian.
The result is an all-too-often weak presentation of the fundamental truths of our faith and an apparent lack of clarity as to what makes one a Christian. Without better information, many people are comfortable identifying themselves as a Christian on such irrelevant qualifications as nationality or political affiliation. Their profession becomes a syllogism of sorts: “America is a Christian nation; I am an American; therefore I am a Christian” or “liberals are godless; conservatives believe in God; those who believe in God are Christians; I am a conservative therefore I am a Christian.” I am afraid that behind this identification is very little concern about sin, salvation, and devotion to Christ.
In my own case, I called myself a Christian before I actually trusted the Lord as my Savior simply out of a desire to be associated with “good people” and to ensure I was on God’s good side.
Sometimes we present Christianity as some sort of a club that people can join or leave as the mood suits them; an association that will provide a social outlet along with some helpful tips on good living. The vast array of available worship venues certainly makes a good case for that perception.
We do no favors to anyone by watering down the meaning of being a Christian. This is especially true when we realize both the scriptures and world history tell us that taking the title of Christian is a serious – sometimes life-threatening – thing to do. It should not be treated lightly.
We may well know how to become a Christian, but do we really understand what it means to be a Christian? I hope you’ll consider that question along with me.
I’d love to read your thoughts. Are Christians today properly representing what it means to be a Christian? How can we better articulate the truth behind this name?