What does it mean for something to be “Christian”? The definition of it seems to be getting a bit loose these days.
For starters, politics certainly isn’t key to it. Outside of “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”, Jesus wasn’t very specific on how that was supposed to manifest itself. What He was clear about was that there is a coming kingdom that will overpower all other kingdoms and to follow Him is to be a part of that kingdom. Nevertheless, American politicians from Jimmy Carter to George Bush have used it effectively as a political platform.
The false label extends further into the realm of “social justice”. The definition of that term is a bit vague, but it implies society being reworked into a better place to be, and the Bible makes it abundantly clear that this world is going to be unceasingly corrupt until Jesus comes back.
“Christian” is also used to refer to “general niceness”. Multiple groups claim Christianity for their swinger or homosexual lifestyles. The Bible makes it very clear that the only proper sexual conduct happens inside marriage, and that the only spiritually good marriage is between a male and female.
On the other end, “Christian” can become a label that endorses sexual, racial or gender discrimination. The Bible had a point where homosexuals were stoned to death, but this was also true of adulterers and negligent owners of bulls that had a history of killing people.
“Christianity” is not a marketing plan. Jesus was intentionally vague or intentionally cryptic to the masses, and when He confided in the disciples there were many truths that were hard to take. Look at the things Jesus said and you’ll find only a pattern of intentional divisiveness spoken in the gentlest way possible.
“Christian” is definitely a religion, but it condemns religiousness. Beyond taking care of the “least of these”, there is nothing that good religion gets anyone in this belief system. To forbid tattoos, emphasize one day over another, prohibit dancing, and restrict certain types of music is expressed in the Bible as actually having a weaker faith. The ones with the stronger faith must patiently endure those with the weaker faiths, but what happens when the weaker faiths are put into positions of mass leadership inside the Church?
“Christianity” isn’t simply a “personal relationship”. Yes, it is a developing and growing relationship with the God of the Bible through Jesus Christ, but it is also a relationship with the community of other like-minded believers who also share that relationship. This is not easy to find in a nation that uses God jointly as a marketing term, a means of control, and as a means of moral justification.
Christianity must be the end, not the means, but that requires death to self, death to personal goals, the sacrifice of personal standards, destruction of connection with other things, destruction of relationships with people, removal of the self as the primary purpose, and an adherence to a higher calling and higher standard of living.
Some Christians believe that lowering the bar makes God more accessible. I contend that it cuts Him off while deceiving people about who God really is. We live in an Age of Grace, but this is its twilight. Repentance is more important now than ever, though many spiritual leaders prefer to hide that reality until they feel the congregation is ready for it.
We need to get back in the game as a Church, but that requires breaking past anything we have ever seen. Written history gives some indication of where we need to be, but not enough that the Holy Spirit isn’t needed to get there. This should be less a time of action and more a time of prayer.