NOT A CHRISTIAN ANYMORE
By Keith Giles
"I don't call myself a Christian anymore," John said. The passengers in the car with him all turned their heads and blinked. "What do you mean," the driver asked, "You mean you're not a Christian?"
John turned to the driver and shook his head. "No, I mean if a Christian is someone that claims they are following Christ, but is ok with living a worldly lifestyle, or is someone who has no concern for the needy and the poor, then that's not a person I want to be associated with. When people hear the word 'Christian', what they think of is the televangelist conning old women out of their social security money, or some guy in a three-piece suit telling people that God wants to make them rich. That's not what a Christian is to me," he said.
John had spent the weekend with these three other gentlemen on a fishing trip to the mountains. None of them were very close friends, but they shared a common love of fishing, and a faith in Christ. At least that's what they had all assumed at the beginning of their trip.
"You can't do that," the driver said.
John looked over at the man. "Do what?"
"You can't just decide to stop calling yourself a Christian because you don't want to be associated with a certain group of people," the driver said.
John smiled and said, "Why not? I mean, on the other hand I don't think any of us measure up to what a real, Biblical Christian looks like. When I read the book of Acts and I see their radical compassion for the poor and their willingness to sell property and possessions to share with anyone in need, I'm blown away because I'm not even close to having that kind of faith in God," he said. "What right do I have, do any of us have, to compare ourselves to people like that who had faith to give up everything to follow Jesus?"
As the discussion raged on, one of the four men sat quietly in the back seat and stared out the window. He was not much of a talker by nature, as the rest of them had already discovered early on in their weekend together. After the storm of dialog had quieted down he cleared his throat and said, "I'm like you, John. I call myself a Christian too, but I'm not a loving person. I don't love my wife the way I should," he said.
The other men in the car looked at one another, and then looked away in the silence of the car. John felt his eyes filling with tears for this man in the backseat. He knew that it was a very brave thing to admit, especially to a car full of acquaintances, but because of John's willingness to confess his weakness, this gentleman had found the courage to admit his own tendency to fall short of the Glory of God.
As John relayed this story to me, I was touched and challenged by what had transpired in that car. First, I was very proud of my friend for having the courage to say those sorts of things and provoke that sort of conversation. We could all use a bit more raw honesty in our lives, and this is the sort of thing I believe James had in mind when he said, "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed." (James 5:16)
Secondly, I was inspired by the wisdom of John's statement concerning our identity as followers of Jesus. I whole-heartedly agree with him on both counts. The idea of someone equating what I believe and practice in my faith with what transpires on 99% of Christian Television makes me sick to my stomach. The last thing I'd want is for someone to hear that I'm a Christian and assume that I’m in favor of what these self-proclaimed spokespeople for Jesus spew out over the airwaves daily. At the same time, when the Bible describes the character of those earliest Christians, I am humbled by their radical compassion and somewhat ashamed to compare my life to theirs.
What if we all stopped identifying ourselves as Christians? What would we say the next time a co-worker asks us about our faith? How would we describe what we believe to a stranger at a party or that person next to us on the airplane?
Here's what I think I'll say from now on; "I have been fascinated lately with the person of Jesus. So, I've been reading books about his teachings, especially the Gospels, and doing my best to follow his wisdom in every area of my life."
It seriously excites me now to think about my next encounter of this sort. Imagine the honest conversation you can have with someone by simply identifying yourself as someone who is fascinated with Jesus. Personally, I can't wait to introduce myself as someone who is curious about the teachings of Jesus and who is learning how to put his words into practice. I think this is a far more compelling response to someone who inquires about our faith. Much more so than simply saying, "I am a Christian" which instantly polarizes everyone, shuts down any hope of conversation and creates an "Us vs Them" environment.
From this day forward, if anyone asks me about my faith, I want it to be known that I am not a Christian, at least not in the sense that it has come to be understood. Today, I am a follower of Jesus. I am someone who is fascinated with the person and teaching of Jesus and I am doing my best to put His words into practice.
I am not a Christian. I am a follower of Jesus. The saddest truth is that those two things aren't necessarily the same.
SERIOUSLY AWESEOME – You need to go to this website now. You need to bookmark it and go there often. It is classic. It is solid gold.
WHILE YOU WAIT- I've decided to release a collection of my earliest RelevantMagazine.com articles into one single book. It’s called "Nobody Follows Jesus (So Why Should You?)" and it will be available as a .PDF download and as a paperback book in just a few weeks time. Watch this space for the release date. (And go on over to my main blog if you want a peek at the cover of the book – www.keithgiles.com)
ALMOST READY- My book, "The Gospel: For Here Or To Go?" is still being released through Lulu Publishing later this year. Just hang on tight and this book will also be available online for purchase. Keep your eyes peeled.
RU REVOLUTIONARY? – Part 1 of my interview with USC Professor Scott Bartchy is online now at http://www.rurevolutionary.com/
Part 2 will be up later this week, I think.
SPEAK UP- I've been invited to preach next month at Soul Survivor Church in Costa Mesa, California on Sunday, Oct 21st. They're back to meeting at Triangle Square and they're now meeting at 11:30am. Mark your calendars and join us for the morning if you can.
Soul Survivor Church
1870 Harbor Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
*Directly underneath the Edwards Cinema, on the corner of Harbor and 19th
NEXT WEEK- Keep me in your prayers next Thursday evening as I communicate the plight of the poor in Orange County to the "REACH" staff at Rock Harbor Church. Mike Kenyon, my friend and one of my biggest heroes in the faith, has invited me to share. God is doing great stuff with this church and I’m honored to spur them on as they serve the poor in Orange County.