I think it’s time we stop asking ourselves the question: “Am I a good Christian?” We live in a time when the term Christian has been so diluted that millions of immoral but nice people genuinely consider themselves “good Christians.” We have reduced the idea of a good Christian to someone who believes in Jesus, loves his or her family and attends church regularly. Others will label you a good Christian even though your life has no semblance to the way Christ spent His days on earth. Perhaps we should start asking the question: “Am I a good Christ?” In other words, do I look anything like Jesus? This question never even entered my mind until a friend of mine made a passing comment to me one day.
Dan is a longtime friend of mine. In fact, he is the pastor who performed my wedding. He was talking to me about a pastor named Von. Von has been working with youth in the San Diego area for decades. Many of his students have gone on to become amazing missionaries and powerful servants of God. Dan described a trip to Tijuana, Mexico, with Pastor Von. (Von has been ministering to the poor in the dumps of Tijuana for years). Dan didn’t speak of the awful living conditions of those who made their homes amidst the rubbish. What impacted Dan the most was the relationship he saw between Von and the people of this community. He spoke of the compassion, sacrifice and love that he witnessed in Von’s words and actions as he held these malnourished and unbathed children. Then he made the statement that sent me reeling:
“The day I spent with Von was the closest thing I have ever experienced to walking with Jesus.”
Dan explained that the whole experience was so eerie because he kept thinking to himself, “If Jesus were still walking on earth in the flesh, this is what it would feel like to walk alongside of Him!” After that discussion, I kept wondering if anyone had ever said that about me—“The day I spent with Francis was the closest thing I have ever experienced to walking with Jesus.” The answer was an obvious “no.” Would any honest person say that about you?
What bothered me was not that I hadn’t “arrived,” but that I was not even heading in the right direction. I hadn’t made it my goal to resemble Jesus. I was not striving to become the kind of person who could be mistaken for Him. Isn’t it ironic that a man can be known as a successful pastor, speaker and Christian—even if his life doesn’t resemble Christ’s?
1 John 2:6 says, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (TNIV).
When John made that statement, he wasn’t speaking about how to be a church leader or even how to be a “good” Christian. He merely stated that anyone who calls himself Christian must live like Jesus did. So how did Jesus live? You could make a list of character traits to compare yourself to, but it would be far more beneficial to simply read through one of the Gospels. After you get a bird’s-eye view of the life of Christ, do the same with your own. Are you comfortable with the similarities and differences?
It is easy to get caught up in the pursuit of “success” as American churchgoers define it. The thought of being well known and respected is alluring. There have been times when I have been caught up in the fun of popularity. I have even mistaken it for success. Biblically, however, success is when our lives parallel Christ’s. Truth is, there are many good Christs that you will never read about in a magazine. They are walking as Jesus walked, but they are too focused and humble to pursue their own recognition.
May we make it our goal to someday have someone say of us: “The day/hour/15 minutes I spent with ______ was the closest thing I have ever experienced to walking with Jesus.”
Christians in America often complain about how antagonistic people are toward Jesus. Personally, I’m not sure that Americans are really rejecting Christ. Maybe they just haven’t seen Him.
Try to be completely honest with yourself right now. Is the following true of you?
You passionately love Jesus, but you don’t really want to be like Him. You admire His humility, but you don’t want to be that humble. You think it is beautiful that He washed the feet of the disciples, but that is not exactly the direction your life is headed. You are thankful He was spit upon and abused, but you would never let that happen to you. You praise Him for loving you enough to suffer during His whole time on earth, but you are going to do everything within your power to make sure you enjoy your time down here.
In short: You think He is a great Savior, but not a great role model.
Many of us have abandoned the most simple and obvious truth of what it means to follow Jesus: You actually follow His pattern of life. I pray for those who read this article—that we do not become cynical or negative toward the Church. Instead, let’s make the decision to stop talking so much and begin living like Jesus. Then we can truthfully say, as the apostle Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1,).