What is a Christian?

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

John 14:23-24

My boys holding candles representing the “Light of the world” during a Christmas Eve service.

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My children are filled with curiosity fueled by their tireless and abundant energy and (possibly) too many sweets. This curiosity makes me the direct target of many, many challenging questions numbering into the hundreds during our average 12-hour day. Inevitably, I leave them disappointed… unable in my aging, finite and exhausted mind to meet the herculean challenge of answering all of their earnest questions.

If you have enjoyed the privilege of spending any significant length of time with someone between the ages 3 and 7, you probably understand the feeling—and you likely well know that one deeply philosophical question is followed in strict pattern by one absolutely ridiculous could-have-fallen-from-the-sky inquiry. It goes something like this:

“Mommy, how close can I actually get to the sun without dying?”

“Mommy, can you describe exactly what a booger should taste like?”

“Mommy, can you ask God if we will live in our human bodies when we die?”

“Mommy, do sidewalks have shadows?”

“Mommy, is God a number since numbers never end?”

“Mommy, how are batteries made?”

“Mommy, if I eat an apple seed will I have a baby?”

“Mommy, what is the biggest thing in the whole world?”

You know… typical questions from the pint-sized philosopher.

Although tiresome, these questions are not at all useless. They are great warm-ups for the questions occasionally thrown at me from an adult over a hot cup of tea—and especially for the ones too important to forfeit a response, such as this:

“So, what is a Christian?”

It’s such a great question—and one that always stops my breath for a second. We absolutely need church-attending (or not) folks to consider this question here in the South, and we absolutely need to be asked to answer it. It can be tempting to stack many assumptions regarding the intentions behind this question and balance them on top of one another to avoid the awkwardness of getting right to the heart of the gospel. Oh, how we don’t want to offend. Oh, how we want to make others feel good so that we can also feel good about how they feel about us. Oh how easy it feels to say a Christian is any or everybody who calls themselves one. But what good is this if it’s not true?

The reality is that “What is a Christian?” is an earnest question in need of an honest answer. And we can not fabricate this one, lest we do so out of the delusion that we are mini-gods. Jesus tells us explicitly in his teachings: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (John 14:23-24).

A Christian is someone who obeys and submits to the teachings and commands of Jesus Christ.

“But how do I do this?”

You must prioritize a discovery and an openness to learn what Jesus taught and submit to it seriously in full faith so that it leaves nothing in your life untouched by what you have learned from Him.

“What did Jesus teach?”

He taught many things, but foremost Christ taught that we are all sinners (have turned away from God) and that we must repent (earnestly ask forgiveness from God) in order to receive enormous and incredible forgiveness given through Christ to our souls (the merciful, unearned favor of God to return to His presence). Jesus taught that if we are to “take up our cross and follow Him” (Matt.16:24-26) — we are to make a study of Him and His life that we may learn from Him and model our actions by Him here on earth.

And He stated that the road following Him is not easy, but when we follow Him He provides us a Helper (the Holy Spirit) and we will never be without His help for us.

So many of us have spent our time sitting in pews, singing hymns, owning a Bible, attending Christian private schools, and saying bedtime prayer poems that we may have missed it…

And others of us have devastatingly never heard this good news offered by Christ before. Forgiveness! The presence of God to help us! Could this be true? Is this not a myth?

It is true! And it is so real, my beloved reader…

And just in case you are one of the many who may have missed it, I wanted to make sure I stop and answer this question (like I do with my own children) that you receive a very straight-forward answer here.

In brief, a Christian is someone who believes this to be true: that Jesus is the Son of God who died for their sins, rose from the dead, reigns now as King over all, and because this is true they follow His teachings found in the Holy Bible and repent of their sins, accept the beautiful gift of forgiveness so that they may enter God’s presence, and submit to Jesus’ kingship over their life for an eternity.

Reader, a Christian is someone who believes that God has done the seemingly impossible because He is the very definition of LOVE itself. He has offered rescue to a broken, dying, and undeserving world.

You may need to ask yourself one very important follow-up question in sincerity: “Am I a Christian?”

And if you find yourself in need of a friend to discuss the possibilities of the answer to your question, my husband and I are absolutely available.

With all of my heart—Your humble servant,

Reagan

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