Someone asked me several weeks ago to help explore the idea of a “true” Christian. Most people think of Christians as a group or individuals who espouse the religious views of Jesus of Nazareth. It is as much a sociological term as it is religious. So the question, “What is a true Christian?” is a curious question. Do we define them by piety and religious ritual? Do we use a set of rules to gauge whether they conform to the teachings of Jesus? Are they active members of a Christian Church? What is it that defines them?
James took a go at it in James 1:27 where he defines true religion in this way: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Jesus at one time used the Hebrew’s Bible (the Old Testament as we refer to it) in Deuteronomy 5:6, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” He added Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We sometimes forget that the “Old” Testament was Jesus Bible and it pointed toward him as Messiah.
I want to concentrate on just one word for a moment to begin our discussion this week – love. We Westerners think of love as an emotion. Yet, it is much more than emotion or feeling. It is an action that is giving without expectation of getting something back. It is selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional action that seeks the good of others. In a sense you could say that those who “love” what Jesus loves are “true” Christians.
There is more to consider and we will do that tomorrow. Until then…