I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
Relate: What makes a Christian a Christian? Even a cursory glance at history or sociology shows that this question can be much more complex than what first seems. What resemblance exists between a modern country pentecostal church in Alabama and the twelfth century Irish monks? Is there a commonality between today’s persecuted Egyptian Coptic church and the accusation Augustine made of his contemporaries when he wrote: “the church is a whore, but she is our mother”? Eighteenth century Russian Orthodox, nineteenth century Latin catholic, the early pioneer American Methodist churches, Scots Presbyterian that raised up a man like John Knox, the modern Korean pentecostal church leading the way in global missions… There is such a wide variety of culture and tradition and history and even doctrine among those that fall under the umbrella of Christianity.
Some of these might seem very different from the practices of Christianity I know both here in Turkey and back in America, but I could still find a home in such a culture and practice very easily. I could easily picture myself in another era investing a lifetime in a monastery copying scriptures by hand. Others traditions I would recognize as Christian but would not for a second feel comfortable there: like the sixth century lavish iconography of the Byzantine churches in Constantinople. There are others who would like to call themselves Christian but I do not feel they have a right to the name. How do the state churches in Nazi Germany have the audacity to try and call themselves followers of Christ? With such a wide variety of history and culture, what is our litmus test? What makes a Christian a Christian?
React: The answer is actually easier than it seems. What will I do with Christ? Do I believe he truly died on the cross for my sins, was buried and rose from the dead on the third day? Everything else is peripheral. How they do church, what they think of the Bible, the rigidity or flexibility of their doctrine, their opinion of Mary and the saints, whether or not they worship with instruments or even which day the church gathers… as important as things things may seem, compared to the most important thing they are subsidiary. Who is Jesus to me and how will I respond to Him? That is what really matters. The right answer to that question is the only thing that makes a Christian a Christian.
Help me to always keep You at the center of it all. We all have our pet doctrines and causes and methods of being who we are, but at the core help me to never forget that anyone following You, no matter how different their practices might seem, is my brother or sister. Help me also to not forget that even if I might think and say all the right things, if I am not following You, I am in outsider. When people ask if I am a Christian, let my footsteps demonstrate the truth of my answer.