This is the first video in a new series called “Bible Musings.” I’ve created a YouTube playlist under that title. I’ve been wanting to do this for some time, but there always seemed to be something more pressing to clear away first. There still is, and there probably always will be, so I decided to just take the bull by the horns and plunge ahead. (I’m sure some of you will point out that it is hard to plunge ahead when you’re holding a bull by the horns.)
What is the purpose of the Bible Musings video series? Well, how do you feel when you first get good news? I think for most of us, our immediate reaction is to want to share it with others, family and friends, for sure. I find as I study the Scriptures that from time to time, some new insight will hit me, some delightful little thought or maybe a clarification of something that had been puzzling me for some time. I’m hardly unique in this. I’m sure you find the same thing happens when you study God’s word. My hope is that by sharing my findings, a general dialogue will result wherein each will contribute his or her insights. I believe that the parable of the faithful and discreet slave speaks not of an individual or small group of overseers, but rather of the work that every one of us does by feeding others from our own knowledge of the Christ.
With that in mind, here goes.
What is the definition of Christianity? What does it mean to be a Christian?
A third of the world’s population claims to be Christian. Yet they all have different beliefs. Ask Christians at random to explain what it means to be a Christian and they will explain it within the context of their particular religious belief.
A Catholic will stay, “Well, here’s what I as a Catholic believe….” A Mormon might say, “Here’s what Mormon’s believe….” Presbyterian, Anglican, Baptist, Evangelist, Jehovah’s Witness, Eastern Orthodox, Christadelphian—each will define Christianity by what they believe, by their creed.
One of the most famous Christians in all of history is the Apostle Paul. How would he have answered this question? Turn to 2 Timothy 1:12 for the answer.
“For this reason, even though I suffer as I do, I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.” (Berean Study Bible)
You notice that he didn’t say, “I know what I believe…”
William Barclay wrote: “Christianity doesn’t mean reciting a creed; it means knowing a person.”
As a former Jehovah’s Witness, it would be easy for me to point the finger and say this is where JWs miss the boat—that they spend all their time focusing on Jehovah, when in fact they cannot come to know the Father except through the Son. However, it would be unfair to imply that this is a problem unique to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even if you’re a “Jesus Saves” Evangelist or a “Born Again” Baptist, you will have to acknowledge that members of your faith focus on what they believe, not on whom they believe. Let’s face it, if all Christian religions believed Jesus—not believed in Jesus, but believed Jesus, which is a whole other thing—there would be no divisions among us.
The fact is that each Christian denomination has its own creed; its own set of beliefs, doctrines, and interpretations that cause it to brand itself as different, and in its adherent’s minds, as simply the best; better than all the rest.
Each denomination looks to its leaders to tell them what is true and what is false. Looking to Jesus, means accepting what he says and understanding what he means, without going to other men to get their interpretation. Jesus’ words are written down. They are like a letter written to each of us individually; but so many of us ask someone else to read the letter and interpret it for us. Unscrupulous men have throughout the ages taken advantage of our laziness and used our misguided trust to lead us away from the Christ, doing so all the while in his name. What irony!
I’m not saying that truth is not important. Jesus said that “the truth will set us free.” However, when quoting those words, we often forget to read the preceding thought. He said, “if you remain in my word”.
You’ve heard of hearsay testimony, haven’t you? In a court of law, testimony that is presented based on hearsay is usually dismissed as unreliable. To know that what we believe about the Christ isn’t based on hearsay, we need to listen to him directly. We need to get to know him as a person directly, not second hand.
John tells us that God is love. (1 John 4:8) The New Living Translation at Hebrews 1:3 tells us that “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God….” So, if God is love, so is Jesus. Jesus expects his followers to imitate this love, which is why he said that they would be recognized by outsiders based on their display of the same love he exhibited.
The New International Version at John 13:34, 35 reads: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The corollary to this expression of our Lord can be stated thus: “By this everyone will know that you are not my disciples, if you do not love one another.”
Throughout the centuries, those calling themselves Christians have fought and killed others also calling themselves Christians because of what they believed. There is hardly a Christian denomination today that hasn’t stained its hands with the blood of fellow Christians because of differences of belief.
Even those denominations that do not engage in war have failed to obey the law of love in other ways. For example, a number of these groups will shun anyone who disagrees with what they believe.
We can’t change other people. They have to want to change. Our best way of influencing others is by our conduct. I think this is why the Bible speaks of Christ being “in” us. The NWT adds words not found in the original manuscripts so that “in Christ” becomes “in union with Christ”, thereby greatly weakening the power of that message. Consider those texts with the offending words removed:
“. . .so we, although many, are one body in Christ. . .” (Ro 12:5)
“. . .Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things passed away; look! new things have come into existence.” (2 Co 5:17)
“. . .Or do you not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you? . . .” (2Co 13:5)
“. . .It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who is living in me. . . .” (Ga 2:20)
“. . .Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, as he chose us to be in him before the founding of the world, that we should be holy and unblemished before him in love.” (Eph 1:3, 4)
I could go on, but you get the idea. Being a Christian means listening to the Christ, ideally to the point that people will see the Christ in us, just as we see the Father in him.
Let the haters, hate. Let the persecutors, persecute. Let the shunners, shun. But let us love others as the Christ loves us. That, in a nutshell, is the definition of Christianity, in my personal opinion.