Whether it’s twitter, reddit or any social media there’s no shortage of supposed Christians being vocal about the things they say they believe. The problem is that often what they are saying on social media doesn’t reflect God’s will or His word. Instead of fostering loving conversations, these platforms are often used to spout out judgemental rhetoric without recourse.
Whether it’s intentional or not, social media Christians today have become modern-day Pharisees, the politically religious group that Jesus was openly hostile to. This reminds us of the biggest problem with Christianity, that it’s made up of deeply wounded and flawed human beings. Unfortunately, that the very audience that they are called to reach might read the quippy memes and use that to confirm their suspicions of an unloving God. That led me to wonder, What Does It Mean To Be A Christian? What does it actually mean?
A lot of people call themselves Christians, but what does that even mean? Just like standing in a garage doesn’t make you a vehicle, calling yourself a Christian doesn’t make you one. Your parents can’t make you a Christian, attending church doesn’t make you a Christian, being a good person doesn’t make you Christian and reposting Tim Tebow’s social media posts doesn’t either. In order to call yourself a Christian, you have to actually be a follower of Christ.
That’s a bit oversimplified but luckily, joining the family of believers is easy. You simply have to believe that Jesus died and rose again for you (Acts 16:31, Ephesians 2:8–9) and then (here’s the hard part) act like it matters. Religious people would call this repentance.
Biblically (and what you’d hear in church) is that we’ve all done things that are wrong (Romans 6:23). Because of this, we’re separated from having an eternal relationship with our Heavenly Father (God). God sent His son to die in our place so that we don’t have to experience this eternal death and separation. By believing that Jesus died for your wrongdoing and rose again you’ve just joined the family.
How Do You Know You’re Saved?
This might be a post for another day but I think it starts with your attitude and your relationship. Did you say the prayer at church or read what I said above and say, “I believe in Jesus”? Great! Even the demons believe in Jesus. So what makes Christians different? Their actions and attitudes. Some would call it a repentant heart.
Repentance is just a religious word that means radically changing your mind about something. For example, lets say you were stealing from your employer. You know that the Bible says you shouldn’t do that and society has set up some consequences that reinforce this notion that it’s bad. Instead of accepting your reasoning – any reasoning from a belief that you need and must have what you’re taking to just doing it for the rush – you change your mind. You acknowledge that it’s bad and in your conversations with God you express the desire to stop.
The point is that you have to decide to follow Jesus, that’s the real repentance. There’s no shortage of opportunities to act unchristlike, we all do these on a daily basis. The big difference is the want. Your desire is to do right. When we first accept salvation it’s very difficult to fulfill that Godly desire. However, as we get closer to God, our strength grows and we are able to fight the temptation. Over time, things that we used to do are no longer part of your DNA.
Before I go on let’s get something clear. Wanting to follow Jesus and living the way that He thinks is best, doesn’t mean walking around in guilt and shame all the time. I know there’s mega popular religious sects of Christianity that might have you believe that. I don’t see that anywhere in the Bible. If you feel convicted about something, like watching Netflix with your friend’s password, ask God about it, read the Word. Check out “how to hear from God” to learn more about this process. However, God doesn’t look at you like, “you tried to be a Christian but you failed, give me 10 religious pushups.” No, when we choose to follow Jesus and accept the adoption into the family, we’re forgiven. That’s the idea of being made new. Past, present, and future all forgiven. That doesn’t give us a license to sin, it just frees us from the bondage cycle that typically occurs when we do something wrong. That bondage cycle of doing something wrong, feeling bad about it, doing it again and feeling worse. This cycle causes us to withdraw from God and it’s not what’s intended.
I mentioned above there are two factors that remind me I’m saved. One is attitude. Do I care about my actions? Do I desire to do what God wants, even if I’m not actively doing it? The other key component is relationship. I’m not a good enough writer to express how earth shattering this is, but I can tell you that this one thing changed my life completely.
Throughout my life I’ve been around church. My Mom and grandparents both used to quote scripture and take me to church. I even attended a Christian school for my early school years. I memorized parts of the Bible, I knew the famous stories but I never heard anyone talk about a relationship until my adult life. When I heard the concept of a relationship, it didn’t make much sense to me. I didn’t have any experience with what a relationship could look like, there was no one there to train me. It wasn’t until I was in a marriage class that someone actually broke down what a relationship looks like. It was so simple.
Talking to God.
That’s it. Instead of giving God my list of “I’m sorries” and my wishlist, I just need to talk to Him like I can see Him in the room and wait to listen. That’s it. My marriage was worse than I realized at the time, and my mentor’s advice was to sit down and talk to God about it. I was verbally abusive and angry and at the time I couldn’t see a way to change. I just thought it was “who I am” However, after sitting down and talking with God about it, something shifted. There were no angels or trumpets, just a small barely noticeable shift. Over time, I would catch myself doing something destructive and stop. Later, I would feel the urge to be destructive and choose not to.
I might have been “saved” when I said the prayer in my teens, but I don’t think I was a true follower of Christ until I changed my attitude and developed a relationship with Him.
What Does It Mean To Be A Christian?
With a foundation of your belief in place, now we can start talking about what does it mean to be a Christian. While there are definitely people out there pushing their own agenda and trying to weaponize Christianity, there are other that mistakenly think that they are somehow standing up to the wrongs in society. This small group may think that calling people out for their sin will cause them to repent and follow Christ. However, I wouldn’t call them Christians.
To be a Christian means to be like Christ. In order to be like Christ we need to know what He actually did and does.
Love God, Love People
Jesus summed up all the commandments with love God and love people. When the woman was caught in adultery, Jesus didn’t immediately shout at her and tag her in social media. Instead, he addressed the accusers. After showing his mercy and caring, THEN he told her to sin no more (John 8:1-11). When he met the woman at the well. He didn’t take a pic and make a snide comment on instagram, because no woman would be at the well at that time of day. He talked with her, revealed how well He knew her. He mentioned to her the things that were evident in her life, but He doesn’t even mention repentance (John 4). He led with relationship.
Do you see the pattern?
Let’s face it, we’re not going to convince strangers of anything life changing on social media. We have one big mission as believers and that’s to spread the Good News, the Gospel, aka God’s love (Matthew 28:18-20). We can only do that through relationship.
What does it mean to be a Christian, it means building a relationship with God and His people.