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.


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,


For This Girl from the Bible Belt: This One Realization Changed Everything

reagan reynolds, reagankreynolds, southern authors, bible belt, the bible, spiritual writing

“The Lord, the Mighty One, is God,

and he has spoken;

he has summoned all humanity

from where the sun rises to where it sets.”

Psalm 50:1

I’m going to say something that may feel like a slap in your face at first, but it might save you from one of those theoretical spiders crawling up your cheek.

The Bible is not about you.

I’m not the first one to say it—I know. Brilliant and humble people have been speaking this truth for years. Some preachers yell it from the pulpit, and others just assume you know. But I didn’t. I simply didn’t know.

I grew up thinking the Bible was a map for how to live my best life—or, in some seasons, it was just a bit of “extra” that God sprinkled on the world to help us out (even though I rarely could make up or down of most of it, so not actually very helpful).

And, look, I’m by no means ranked with one of the best readers out there–but I have done my fair share of literary study, and so I know that if the fact that the Bible isn’t about me wasn’t apparent to me, it may not be apparent to you.

Friend, the realization that the Bible is not about me literally changed everything. Things that didn’t make sense about the Bible suddenly were brought to light. Passages in scripture that I banged my head against for years became the very core of the pillars that uphold my faith today. I’ve since walked away from my fight to be centerstage, and to do so has given me great freedom.

You see, reading the Bible as if it was about me resulted in:

  • confusion about the role of and the relevancy of the Old Testament in my life (which led to complete avoidance of it),
  • sporadic reading of random chapters or verses in order to extract some application to my current need,
  • leaving my Bible on the shelf for days, weeks, months, years… while I searched for a means to experience God,
  • a complete obsession with figuring out my calling,
  • a rejection of Christianity altogether because it didn’t seem like I was the main character of the Christian story, which caused me to doubt whether it was true at all.

Life after realizing the Bible is not about me (or you) produced in me:

  • a voracious hunger to learn more about the most dynamic and virtuous character ever portrayed in history—our God;
  • a desire to read scripture in context and feast on it as a means to align and wake up to truth, and witness the vitality of the greatest story ever told still playing out today;
  • a true love for the Bible, which is now my favorite book of all time (surpassing even Little Women), and one I read again and again;
  • a very real desire to witness God moving in the lives of those around me, and watching Him work in my own life in complete awe and wonder that the Ancient of Days is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (as proved in scripture);
  • a solid and unwavering—although imperfect—surrender and devotion to Jesus Christ, the King over all the earth.

All of that from the simple realization that the Bible is not about me.

It is about God. And humanity plays a role in this grand story, yes. But we are not the heroes of the story. The story that God is writing with humanity is a beautiful act of redemption, which glorifies the Author of it all. God is writing His memoirs with us—and, let me tell you, the story does not disappoint. 

So, there. You’re not the main character of the Bible… or of your life. God is the main character in it all. You don’t have to conjure up a legacy or a purpose, or try to seek your name etched somewhere in the folds of scripture. God is writing you into His story, so all of the work of how, when and why you show up in it belongs to Him.

He is inviting you to participate in this beautiful adventure—for you to look to Him to lead and for you to willingly follow.

So, let me end with a question–

Maybe you’ve never heard this before and you’re unsure of the theology behind the statement. I encourage you, then, to open your Bible—just start at the very beginning—and read a passage or two and ask yourself this one simple question, “What does this passage say about who God is?” 

Let me know how it goes. If anything, I welcome the opportunity to revel in the scriptures with you and I’m available, if it helps to have a friend read along.