I’m enjoying this new “ASK STEVE” series a great deal! I hope you look forward to Fridays now as much as I do.
This week’s question is another great, seemingly simple question: what does it mean to be a good Christian? Much like last week’s question, in my old life, I would have had a quick answer. I was a black and white religious guy with no room for gray areas. But now that messy grace has transformed my life, I can see how much we need to revisit the basics of our faith, not just for the sake of new Christians, but for those of us who continually need to shed the scales from our eyes.
So what does it mean to be a “good” Christian?
I think the answer depends on what lens you're using to understand Christianity. Are you viewing Christianity through the lens of dogma, doctrine, family tradition, or small-minded religion? Or are you viewing Christianity through the lens of Jesus?
And what does it mean to be a “bad” Christian? Is there even such a thing?
I used to think that a good Christian memorized Scripture, was in church every Sunday, and prayed at least twice a day. I thought a good Christian acted as much like their pastor as possible. They never sinned, and they weren’t needy. I thought a good Christian had no problems.
But all of that is the essence of performance-based Christianity. I would encourage you to look at the Gospels (I love The Message version by Eugene Peterson) and focus especially on the words of Jesus and how he interacted with people who followed him and people who came to him to meet a need. He was incredibly gracious to those whose lives were a mess, and he was incredibly blunt and short and not-so-gracious to the religious people who thought they had it all together.
Here’s a few other Scriptures that speak strongly to me about what this whole Christian life is all about:
- For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8
- But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
- A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
For me, Christianity is acknowledging my absolute need for Jesus. Without Jesus, I am prideful, short-tempered, perverted, and selfish. But the grace of Jesus calls me to be humble, kind, generous, pure, patient, loving, and gracious. Jesus calls me to put others first. He helps me realize that the world is so much bigger than what I can see right in front of me. And Jesus helps me realize that there's so much more to faith than what I hear preached about on a Sunday morning.
Christianity means trying our best to become like Jesus and knowing in our gut that we will never make it, so we fall onto abundant, messy grace. Jesus is perfect; we are broken. But the perfection of Jesus accepts our brokenness as we are. My favorite quote by Brennan Manning says, "God loves you as you are and not as you should be because you will never be as you should be." Christianity is much more about Christ than it is about me.
What does it mean to be a “good” Christian? According to my mentor, Sue, the concept of a good Christian is an oxymoron. It’s like saying there’s a “good blue’ or a “bad blue”. It’s blue. You’re a Christian. End of story.