Let’s Talk About True Christians, Or I’m In It For Free Gourmet Coffee

I originally wrote the majority of this post two weeks ago, but now I see yesterday’s post about the Norway shooter as a decent segway into today. 

Sometimes when I see an incredibly wealthy Christian at church who lives up on the hill and has a half million dollar home and more cars than I do extremities, I say a true Christian lives modestly and gives away what wealth they have.

Sometimes when I see a street preacher yelling about the “queers” or the abortionists I say a true Christian shouts love, not hate.

Sometimes when I see a Christian who is in the news for violence, I say a true Christian is a peacemaker who works toward reconciliation.

Almost everyone has an idea or seven about what it means to be a true Christian (as opposed to all of those out there who are in it for the free fair trade coffee on Sunday mornings or those who make the early trek Sunday mornings simply to appease their nagging mother). I find these “hey true Christians do (or don’t do) this or that” pronouncements problematic. The judgment and the labeling seem to be in direct conflict with a patient and graceful spirit.

This following Jesus thing has taught me some things I consider to be essentials, but just because not everyone is on that same page doesn’t mean they’re idolatrous or lost. Almost always when I decree someone or something to not be truly Christian, I am therefore elevating myself by saying that I am a true Christian. And that just doesn’t make any sense. I don’t have Christianity trademarked, nor embodied.

If I were to say this ironically, I would say that a true Christian knows to not declare what a true Christian believes or does. But that would defeat the entire purpose of this post. So I merely say that I’ve found that I can no longer declare who the real believers are or what a true Christian does. I have some ideas, and certain directions I think are worth following, but it is dangerous to declare them to be the very heart of Christianity.

What do you see as the dangers of declaring someone or something to be truly Christian? Do you even agree this is a dangerous thing? 

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20 Responses to Let’s Talk About True Christians, Or I’m In It For Free Gourmet Coffee

  1. The biggest problem I see Charlie is we are human. It seems the moment someone is shown as an example of the christian life or as someone to emulate, they tend to fall. I cannot begin to express how often I have fallen off the pedestal (of my own making). I think saying, “this constitutes a true Christian” borders on legalism, or at worst, our own idea of it. I prefer to lift up Jesus as the example to follow. Will I be successful? Not nearly as much as i will fail but at least I am looking at the Ultimate One.

    • I agree it’s very legalistic – as we are putting very narrow parameters around the Christian faith. Though there are certainly boundaries, we often really box it in. And even worse, we still fail our boxed in faith, as you point out.

  2. Darius says:

    I get what you’re saying and to some extent, I agree. However, the Bible makes those distinctions, and it’s not just Jesus making them (if it were just him, we could hide behind the “well, He was God, he can get away with that” excuse). The Jews thought they were the real followers of God, and Jesus said, “No, you’re not.” Paul repeatedly makes such distinctions in his letters. I think being a true Christian requires certain things. First and foremost is where one puts their hope. If they put it ultimately in themselves and things they do to make God happy and save them, then they aren’t Christian. If they pride themselves on their righteousness, then they aren’t Christian. If they claim to be Christian and yet deny nearly everything in the Bible, then they’re probably not Christian. Now, that isn’t to say that Christians can’t do/think unChristian or extremely foolish things at times. I certainly do. But at the end of the day, what are our core beliefs? Peter denied Jesus three times, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t still believe Jesus was Lord and the Messiah. He merely let his sinful flesh and cowardice overwhelm his beliefs.

    • Chris says:

      “First and foremost is where one puts their hope.”

      And what is that hope?

      • Darius says:

        I should add that it isn’t up to any man to decide if another person is saved or a Christian. We can point out things that aren’t Christian or Biblical, but only God can speak to one’s eternal status.

        Chris, the hope is that which Paul described in Romans: “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”

      • as I reflect back on my post I don’t think I did the topic justice. I agree with your comment, yet I still think would could exercise more caution around labeling what’s true Christianity. I may need to take this one back to the drawing board…

    • Chris says:

      @ Darius.
      I understand what you say here about Paul in Romans, but I feel that this particular message of hope that we often hear is somewhat truncated, or incomplete.
      Let me quote something that I’ve been reading recently that I think says it well. It’s a book by Gabe Lyons and he puts it this way:

      “Paul tells us in Colossians 1, that Christ’s shed blood began a restorative work affecting the eternal things of heaven as well as the here and now events on earth. More than simply offering us a postmortem destination, God commissioned us to share his whole story and become conduits for him to bring healing to earth and its residents. Like a capstone to the story of God. Christians are called to partner in a restorative work so that the torch of hope is carried until Christ returns. This is the story of God. The whole story.”

      In other words, Heaven is a wonderful promise for those who put their faith in Him, but quite literally, eternity starts now and we are remiss if we fail to grasp that truth.

  3. “What do you see as the dangers of declaring someone or something to be truly Christian? Do you even agree this is a dangerous thing? ”

    There are many dangers. The biggest danger, period, is that I don’t know. I do not have enough information. I often don’t even have enough information about MYSELF, let alone about somebody else. For instance, I said “DAMMIT!” when my coffee splashed out in the car this morning. NOBODY but God heard me. Do I believe that’s a good way for Christians to express themselves? No. Would it destroy my “witness” to non-believers if they heard me? Probably, at least for some. Would most Christians instantly criticize and correct me if they had heard it? Yes. But do they KNOW anything about my relationship with God? In most cases, not at all. Not even people that I go to church with EVERY WEEK really know what’s going on in my life relative to God. No idea. They never will. I’ve fooled a lot of people in my life. Even myself.

    We simply don’t have enough information, no matter how much “fruit” we claim to see, to know the true status of someone’s relationship with Jesus Christ.

    If they claim to be following Christ, we simply need to do anything we can to help them along that journey. And if they DON’T claim to be following Him, we just need to do our best to help them start following Him.

    Yes, it is dangerous to continually be walking around in a state of trying to decide who is in and who is out.

    Oh, and a loving correction…. Segway is a little thing you ride on that has two wheels and allows you to stand up while riding. You meant to say “segue.”

    • Forgot to sign up for email notifications of comments, sorry for the extra comment….

      • so funny you should mention the segue thing – I thought for sure it was segueway but the little red line of death popped up and I googled it, which unanimously stated it was segway. This was a 5 minute ordeal for me.

        nonetheless your dead on – we don’t have enough information and I’d even say we’ll never have enough. That’s where that annoying cliche of walking in another’s shoes comes into play – if we actually did that walk we’d truly find much less to judge on.

  4. Chris says:

    “What do you see as the dangers of declaring someone or something to be truly Christian? Do you even agree this is a dangerous thing?”

    To get the fuller handle of the gravity of the question, turn it around for a moment and add it to the original.

    What do you see as the dangers of declaring there are no things/nothing a Christian must believe? Do you even agree this is a dangerous thing?

  5. David says:

    It’s very interesting, we do make judgement based on our Christian experience. We make judgement all day long… it is how we operate as human beings.

    Me, I am not buying this be nice to everyone = Love. It doesn’t. Love confronts, rebukes, disciplines, and even anger is allowed if we don’t sin. Sure it nurtures and is kind, but kind does not equal sloppy agape!

    I had a friend that was murdered by a family member about a week ago. This family member was “saved” really saved. He participated church for years. His life had fruit. One night he had some drinks, and in a fit of rage committed murder. He’ll probably spend the rest of his life in prison (ME doesn’t have a death penalty).

    Part of the Gospel is to say what sin is. Without knowing what it is (IE: abortion), how would we know we need a savior?

    The problem is when we think there is a formula for following God, we are then in trouble. That is like having a formula for being a husband. Trust me, what works once may not work the next time. We need to discern the situation, communicate, and then maybe we will judge the situation correctly, and have the right response. Maybe.

    Paul said that we should spiritually discern things – that takes knowing God’s voice. Otherwise it is just judgement.

    • You nailed it – we all have a formula in our heads for what a Christian is – and if someone hasn’t been through each step of that equation we somehow assume they’re poser Christians – in it so they don’t go to hell but not actually caring about God. It sounds like from other comments I could have better clarified this wasn’t some backhanded post about getting people to adopt a “whatever floats your boat” kind of theology. Of course murder is deeply entrenched in sin. Of course we should call it as such.

  6. theoldadam says:

    We simply cannot know (because we can’t see the heart or the true motivations of a person).

    We give the benefit of the doubt to all who profess Christ and that’s about all we can do.

  7. Amy says:

    Honestly, I try not to say this person is a true Christian based on this or based on that. I mean, I Jesus does say something about bad fruit and Paul does say something about knowing that we’re Christians by our love. I DO think there are things that TRUE Christians wouldn’t do…but there’s always a line, and it becomes less and less clear.

    But I do what to say something about gourmet coffee because I need to rant, and this seems as safe a place as any. Why, oh why, does my mom’s church need to build a coffee bar?!!?!? I mean, does a good cappuncino make people flock to church? I’m a tea drinker, so I’ve been discriminated against for years…but still…WHY?!!?!?

    This is what bothers me, Charlie. I work with musicians and authors and other interesting folks. Some of the bands I love Tweet stuff about how we need to give our money so kids can have clean water…great, I’m all for clean water. At their $30+ (for the cheap seats) concerts, they talk about Compassion kids (like if I didn’t come to your concert, I could have gotten a Compassion kid…hmm…. Actually, I usually get comp tix for the whole media thing, but you get my point).

    Then on Twitter, they talk about stopping at Starbucks for this or that drink or eating here or there or whatever they do. Look, I’m glad they have money to go to Starbucks every day…right on. But don’t tell me NOT to go to Starbucks (I don’t actually) and instead use the money to give the African kids wells!!! It’s such a double standard and I hate it. I mean, you really have to live out your faith to the best of your ability, and you’ll fall down. All true Christians fall. I just don’t like when they’re tripping other people on the way down.

    • loved the rant! so good! I loved what you said about hey if I wouldn’t have bought a ticket I could do the sponsorship. And you’re so right they always say hey don’t go to coffee shops anymore – oh man, you just nailed it. My parent’s church recently put in a big coffee bar – and I was actually disappointed because they served the poopiest coffee there – I mean if you’re gonna do it just do it, don’t give me crappy roadside diner stuff this place cost $200,000! (and their tea selection for my wife was wretched! we’ll never go back there I’ll tell you what :p )

      • Amy says:

        $200,000?!!! You’ve got to be kidding me! People, make your coffee at home and use a travel mug. There are kids in OUR TOWNS who can’t buy school supplies and people who CAN’T AFFORD medications. I think we can go without COFFEE and TEA for five seconds. I mean…clean water for a village in Africa or caffeine for the head deacon? Hmm…. Ugh. I could puke.

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