According to my friend The Rev. Canon Richard Tanner, being a "Christian" means being,
"Committed to Christ"
"Committed to the Body of Christ"
"Committed to the work of Christ" and
"Developing your life in that order." Various other people suggest equally good definitions such as, "Becoming a Christian encompasses God's initiative to call, equip and send us" and this is also true. But at the same time, being a Christian requires our response and hence a further definition, "Being a Christian is to bow to Christ,
to join the Body of Christ
to engage in the work of Christ."
Spiritual maturity is possible when all these elements are combined in a person. The Christian life involves all three aspects. A good definition of what is a Christian is especially important for Protestant Christians who lay great stress on individual response and personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.✞
Being a Christian means
First of all to be "Christ-centered." We need to be "converted" or "born again" and experience the forgiveness of sins in our hearts and lives. Jesus needs to be our Lord.✞
Second, it means being "Bible-Based." This means modeling all aspects of our Christian life on the complete and authoritative Word of God. The phrase "Word of God" here encompasses the whole of the Bible called the Scriptures which Christians believe is accurate, true and reliable. Saint Paul emphasizes this in 2 Timothy 3.16-17 when he writes, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." It is the last word from God. It is our handbook for life!✞
Third, it means being "people orientated." Christians need to seek to reach others to share the Good News with them by all possible means. Spiritually we need to eat solid food rather than just drinking milk. In Hebrews 5.13-14 the writer explains, "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." Saint Paul adds that everything a mature Christian does should be out of love. In Philippians 1.15-16a he writes, "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love."✞
To the question, "What does being committed to the Body of Christ mean?" Blaise Pascal, (1623-1662 AD) who was a French philosopher and devout Christian responds, "To be a member of the Body of Christ is to have neither life, being nor movement, except through the spirit of the Body and for the Body." In the Christian life, everything we do, think or say is through and for the benefit of Jesus Christ and the Body of Christ!✞
Christ's indwelling in the Christian happens through an infusion of Jesus into our human nature. Without Christ's indwelling, there can be no part for the individual Christian in the Mystical Body of Christ. The Body of Christ can not exist for sects that deny Christ because Jesus is not present in individuals there. No Christ means no Christian! No Christians mean no Body of Christ!✞
Communion is actual for a Christian prisoner of conscience in a frozen Siberian labor camp because, and only because, Christ's indwelling is burning in the warmth of that person's heart. Archbishop Michael Peers, (1934-Present) the former Anglican Primate in Canada says insightfully, "When I am by myself, I am the entire Body of Christ." Here is a great truth for all Christians!✞
The solitary individual believer who shivers in a dark prison cell and two thousand worshippers in a cavernous cathedral both know Christ's indwelling! When this personal indwelling happens in someone's heart, that person will never be the same again. A spiritual implosion destroys the old to create the new! God's chain reaction detonates atomically in our cells when we became part of the Mystical Body of Christ. Dr. Paul Brand (1914-2003) was a medical doctor and surgeon and a leader in developing tendon transfers for those with leprosy. He was a great Christian man of God who toiled to make life better for the most severely disabled. He echoed Jesus' compassion in his own life. He suggests in one of his books, "As a result of this stuff-exchange, we carry within us not just the image of, or the philosophy of, or faith in, but the actual substance of God."✞
Believers bear the Christian self-image when they receive Christ as Saviour and experience a transformation inside. The Christian thinker and Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) discusses the Christian self-image in "Man in Search of a Soul" in which he writes, "The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances. If there is any reaction, both are transformed." Jung's work convinces him that life has a spiritual purpose. He is often regarded as a counterbalance in this regard to another leading psychologist Sigmund Freud (1865-1935). Freud once said to a friend, "I can't do it better than Jesus." Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) the Danish philosopher and theologian, adds to this, "God cannot make a person his equal without transforming that person into something more than a person." Kierkegaard is interested in an individual's subjective relationship to the God-Man Jesus Christ, which comes through faith.✞
What does the self-image mean for the Christian? Is it perhaps Christ's transforming personality that distinguishes Christians from other humans and animals? In being drawn into the Mystical Body of Christ, human beings are irresistibly transformed into a new self-image. Just look at your reflection in the mirror. A son may be the image of his father. Adam was one hundred and thirty years old when he became the father of Seth. The Bible in Genesis 5.3 describes Seth as, "a son in his likeness, according to his image."✞
In the same way, a daughter may have the same facial appearance as her mother or father and may display his or her mannerisms or idiosyncrasies. The "image" therefore means more than appearance, maybe similarities of gestures, even "like thinking." A Christian's image denotes an association between a person and God. Saint Paul describes the destructive results of idol worship on people and explains in Romans 1.22-23 that they "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles." An idol-image here replaces the Christian image that marks the relationship between a human being and his or her Creator. People are intended to have a special self-image but often, unfortunately, develop an idol-image by being sucked by an overpowering attraction into something other than God. Adam and Eve were also given the divine image likeness, the very nature but not God's divine qualities like omniscience, omnipresence or omnipotence. Individual human beings are created in the likeness of the divine image that is they are "god-like" and similar in appearance. However, they often try to make God like themselves that is in their likeness to control and influence him. Some people are more comfortable when God is like them for he will not shock them by his non-human and godly reactions.✞
A group of ordained Anglican clergy at a conference I attended were asked to describe the characteristics of God, the Supreme Being. Virtually all of the distinguishing features they named were human qualities, even anger. The special attributes of the divine such as omnipotence or unlimited power were not mentioned even by men and women of the cloth. Omniscience means knowing the thoughts and actions of all human beings at the same time. Omniscience meaning "an all-knowing mind" or "omnipresence" or the ability to be in all places at the same time was not mentioned. Even God's eternal nature was not listed.✞
People prefer a God-like themselves whom they can relate to but without any of his "super-qualities." To be honest, we hate God interfering in our lives because he is so unpredictable. By being given the divine likeness, human beings are incorporated into God's community. God says at the creation in Genesis 1.26-27, "'Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' So God created mankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." "All the wild animals" is rendered in the Masoretic Text as "all the earth." We are made in his "image" but without his super abilities.✞
Although in our modern language "man" which is derived from an old English word "mann" has come to mean "male," in this context as in early English generally the word "man" includes persons of both sexes, both male and female. The writer explains in Genesis 9.6, "Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind."✞