Reading an article last week reflecting on the day after Glenn Beck’s Washington Rally brought up a couple of concerns. Stephen Owens chimes in on Beck’s evaluation of President Obama’s faith in the Dallas Morning News article, “Oft-divisive Glenn Beck creates rift in Mormon Church with comment about Obama’s Christianity.” Here’s what he says, “I think it’s arrogant of anyone to say whether someone is a Christian or not” Owens said. “My view of that is, if someone says, ‘I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ,’ then they’re Christian, and who am I to say, ‘No, you’re not,’ let alone the president of our country? I was offended at that.” I interpret Owen’s definition of a Christian as anyone who attempts at following the “teachings” of Christ is deemed a Christian. That’s way too broad for me!
Here are a couple of thoughts that come to mind regarding Owen’s definition. First, just because you follow the teachings of Jesus doesn’t make you a Christian. Plenty of people follow good, moral, ethical, and biblical teaching, unfortunately that doesn’t make them a Jesus disciple nor does it make them Christian. One is deemed Christian based upon their personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Christians are not defined by a set of rules, but on their relationship with Christ. Rules and deeds just don’t do it. Even Jesus said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Somewhere along the way, someone got it wrong and declared people Christian by one’s attempted rule following. Even Paul said, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.” God initiated the offer to know Him through His Son Jesus. You are a Christian because salvation comes by grace through faith. The real following for the true disciple comes after you know Him. It is because you know Him that you desire to follow Him. Believe me, we need the grace. None of us are successful followers!
The reference to “judging” someone’s faith (or the evidence thereof) as arrogant is misleading. As believers, we do judge one another. It’s called accountability. It’s a biblical principle too. Every believer is an individual priest. We use the term “Priesthood of the Believer.” You alone bear a personal responsibility for your relationship with Christ. No one can make a decision for you. You must make the decision to trust Christ for yourself. This means you have direct access to God, there’s no need to go through a priest. What Christ did for you is He reconciled you to the Father (if you know Christ). But, in the Priesthood of the Believer there exists the “Priesthood of the Believers” or (Believers Priesthood). We live in accountable community with others who know Jesus Christ as Lord. The definition of a Christian in reality is a very narrow scope. It’s not a catchall phrase for people who believe there’s a God or try to follow moral and ethic teachings. Remember, it was Jesus who said, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Since I’m quoting so much Scripture, here is a couple more. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Then of course, Jesus also said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I think you get the picture.