What is a Christian?

I did an Internet search on “What is a Christian?” and the results were mind boggling. I’ve written here and on my website, The Bird Sanctuary, that I believe we’re called to redefine what we mean by Church and by Christianity. If there already is a “correct” definition, it’s certainly not one on which all, or even very many, Christians agree, and heaven only knows how non-Christians might go about explaining it. Creating a new understanding for what no one can agree is a current understanding is a formidable task. It’s somewhat reassuring to realize that I’m not the only one who has noted this phenomenon.

Mark M. Mattison writes, “What is a Christian, anyway? Someone of European descent? A persecutor of Jews? Someone who votes for only the most conservative Republicans? At times all of these answers have seemed plausible. Some use these definitions to this day. In Christian circles the answers are no clearer. A Christian is sometimes said to be someone who has made a decision; sometimes, someone who belongs to a church; far too often, someone who confesses the right creeds. Which brings us right back to our question: What, really, is a Christian?”

Time Magazine published an article in its October 22, 1951 issue about a court case in which $75,000 hung on the answer. It was as inconclusive as any other attempts to nail it down.

If you hoped I would offer the definitive answer in this blog, don’t read on unless you’re as ready to start from scratch as I am. Along with allowing the Church to die, I believe we need to let Christianity die as well, not because it isn’t fit to live, but to die for the same reasons that Jesus said the seed must die in order to experience new life. When we stop trying to save Christianity for its own sake, for fear that we’ll be lost or powerless without it, we might be freed to enter into a new relationship with the Gospels and be able to keep an open mind and heart about just who Jesus was and what his life was about. Because the real question for me is not “what is the Church?” or “who/what is a Christian?” but who is Jesus?

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