I mentioned earlier that my second reason for faith in Christ was based on observing those people who seem to actually be disciples of Christ living it out in their lives. Now that may strike you as a bit odd. You see, many, many people I know who are not followers of Christ or don’t believe in God in any form, base at least a portion of their disbelief on the behavior of Christians they have observed. In a conversation with E. Stanley Jones recorded in Jones’ book The Christ of the Indian Road, Mohandas Ghandi answers a query about whether or not he had ever considered converting to Christianity with this statement, “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.” That seems to be the growing consensus about Christianity.
So how then, in light of that, do I defend this basis for my faith? I guess it begins with something like a working definition. In an earlier post I wrote that being a Christian meant simply following Christ. Let me expand on that just a bit for my purposes here. Following Christ means that you value what He values and you practice what He deems important in His teachings. If He says that we are supposed to love each other, which He does, then a follower of Christ would be someone whose lifestyle exhibits love. If Christ taught a preference for peace over conflict then you can reasonably expect a disciple to long for, and actively make peace, and respect those who do. If Christ taught that His followers should be helping out those broken people that we come in contact with, whether broken by poverty, disease or sin (or whatever else) then it is reasonable to expect that attitude in His students. Furthermore, if Christ taught that His way could be difficult and require daily sacrificial living and that everyone fails, which He did, then you can reasonably expect His followers to be always striving after that goal, falling, getting back up and striving again; with great humility. If Christ said that the greatest command in all the bible was to love God and to love each other, then it is to be expected that those people who call themselves by His name would seek to please Him and to serve each other.
Now then, there are plenty of “christ-claimers” who don’t meet these criteria. We call them hypocrites or liars or extremely misled. I should note that real followers of Christ will love these guys also. But my bet is that you know some followers of the Nazarene who actually fit the bill, all of it, including the failing and trying part.
I hope I can live up to the expectation I just wrote down. Truth is, if I believed I lived up to everything it means to be a Christian, I would have failed to. Being aware of how far you have to go is part of following Jesus.
Listen, I’ve dealt with folks in church who would make me want to be an atheist. I get it. And the Christians that the media pulls out to show us make my skin crawl. Then there are those guys who want Christianity to be about politics. It’s a dark world out there, and having a religious culture, like most of the church in the south, leads to the same problems now as it did in Jesus’ time. I get it.
But I also know plenty of loving, believing, seeking, striving followers of Jesus. Many of them are bright and articulate. Many of them are less erudite and more simple in thought and lifestyle. But they all love, oh, how they love. And they try to be like one that saved them; the Carpenter-Teacher who stays in view just ahead of them and shows them how to walk the ancient paths; who stays by their side through the darkest of nights; who gives them hope when all seems hopeless. I know people who have had nothing to rely on but their faith and Christ and it has sustained them and made them joyful in circumstances that should tear their hearts out. And you know them, too. My parents are this kind of believer, flawed but following. Their friends, and many of mine, fit the same Christian definition.
It’s at the point that you realize that there are these real, loving, otherwise reasonable people who believe not just in God, but in a specific God who incarnated Himself as Jesus Christ all those years ago, that you realize you have to know the truth. If you are really a seeker, that will always make you seek.
I believe in Jesus because of the impact He has on His true disciples.