Thursday, November 02, 2006

"I used to be a Christian too..."

One thought that has been turning over in my head for the past few days regards a conversation I had earlier in the week. I had quite a long conversation with a student, who said that he 'used to be a Christian up until the age of 11.' However, having listened to him for quite a while, I asked him what he thought 'being a Christian' meant. It was clear that he'd never really thought about it, and so I took him to Mark 8:27-38. We spoke about how being a Christian meant recognising what it meant for Jesus to be God's King, the Messiah, about what it meant for the Messiah to die and, crucially, what it means to be a follower - to deny himself, take up his cross and follow Jesus.

As we spoke, the student said what a relief it was to hear this. It was a relief to him that he had never really lived as a Christian. He said how he had assumed that because he thought he was a Christian and it 'hadn't worked' - he hadn't felt any form of existential satisfaction, that he had assumed that Christianity was invalid and untrue. He said that it came as a massive relief to know that what he had rejected was not authentic Christianity. Of course he could not have known any form of satisfaction, as he his relationship to God had not changed, his sin remained unforgiven and, therefore, he had no cause for joy. Off of the back of our conversation, he agreed to look at the Bible again for himself.

This episode has made me think carefully. Often I hear the phrase, 'I used to be a Christian...' and I have often let this comment go, preferring to focus on other gospel issues. Now, however, I am wondering if it is more important to show people the deficiencies in their 'Christianity' than I had previously thought. Surely it's important to show folks that what they have rejected is not authentic Christianity but a form of Christless and joyless and graceless moralism. This is not what it means to follow Jesus and it is not what Jesus called 'true life'. It is not 'to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent' (John 17:3). Yet until people realise this, they will assume that Jesus is someone to leave in the past, and not someone that can meet all of their needs.


At 1:12 AM, Blogger Paul said...

Agreed. Good post, good story. I guess I have a tendency to jump to the P of TULIP in my head and dismiss the claim before I even think of what might be actually helpful to say. Thanks.


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