Christianity is probably the largest religion in the world. But members can be divided into three categories, as analysed through their behavioural patterns. Generally, all Christians confess that they love Jesus. However, not all Christians know anything about Christianity. Most are only bound by what would be expounded by their respective denominational leaders.
Christianity is identified by the usage of the name of Jesus. But in some cases, the same name of Jesus is taken advantage of—for purposes of fund-raising—by the unscrupulous denominational leaders. It is also, possible that some people may, actually, preach Christ unknowingly.
This is just as when one of the High Priests, Caiaphas, suggested that it was expedient, if one man died for the people, he was, actually, stating a fulfilment of prophecy, without him knowing (John 18:14). The betrayal by Judas, also, served to advance the cause of Jesus, without Judas having intended to achieve that.
In his time, the apostle Paul also observed the zeal for preaching Christ—even though not all were intentionally preaching out of good will. Paul reveals that preaching Christ was not always for good intentions.
“Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,”(Philippians 1:14-18) (NIV).
Paul also included the fact that all things work together for good for those who love God and called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Today Christianity is being advanced through thousands of denominations, as identifying with different characters and denominations.
In the majority of cases, it is, basically, self-centredness that necessitates diversities, among thousands of those denominational varieties. The intention is mostly to access advantages that are found in Christianity.
Most people love Jesus, but only for what they can get. Even in the first century, thousands of people followed Christ, only for what they could receive from Him (Luke 14:25-33). Nothing has changed, dramatically, as even today, Christianity is adopted for purposes of respective personal advantages.
As stated earlier, there are basically three categories of people subscribing to Christianity. With most of these denominations—baptism is a determinant factor—in sealing membership commitment.
However, baptism alone does not always portray reality, as motives can only always be known by God. No-one can be certain of what goes on in the minds of people calling themselves ‘Christians.’ Even Peter contended with this phenomenon, in the early church (Acts 8:9-24).
Nevertheless, a careful analysis of the general behavioural pattern of individual Christians reveals three categories, thereof. Highlighting these categories is intended to help individual Christian practitioners to examine themselves, so as to appreciate objectivity in their Christian endeavours.
I suppose the three categories existed, even in Jesus’ time. Otherwise, Jesus could not have uttered the words like: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord. Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”(Matthew 7:21) (NIV).
The first category comprises those benefitting from associating with Christianity. The majority of these are mostly found in Africa. On hearing of the arrival of missionaries from rich Western countries, they come in thousands, expecting to receive free clothing, miraculous healings and other benefits.
Additional advantages, here, include sense of belonging. The social grouping necessitates values in co-existence. And such people can be taught to appreciate loving one another. Through such associations, some of them may begin to study the Bible, to appreciate Jesus’ teachings.
The missionaries from such rich Western nations ought to be commended. As, obviously, they contribute immensely to the betterment of people whose lives would be wallowing in superstition and poverty.
The purpose of Christianity is, basically, to add value on other people. There are, generally, positive changes in the lives of impoverished people, due to such missionary efforts. However, maintaining membership, may only be for personal advantages, for most of those members.
Should provisions of assistance dry up, there is possibility of numbers dwindling, as fast as possible. Most of those people fall back to their original life-styles. It would therefore be necessary for missionary provisions to continue flowing for those groupings to remain intact.
The most important thing would be to ensure that, while free handouts would be provided, the educational material and personal counselling also get provided. It may take time before a person recovers—to appreciate being valuable to other people.
The only disadvantage, with this category, is in failure—by most missionaries—to appreciate what Jesus said in passages like Matthew 13:10-13. Jesus preached in parables, to prevent those people from understanding secretes of God’s Kingdom.
Trouble starts with those missionaries—going out with motives to convert people into Christianity. The idea of altar calls is common with most of those missionaries. Jesus Christ never proselytized anyone to become His follower.
Jesus practised principles of God’s Kingdom, to benefit everyone. But, He clearly told His listeners that a choice to follow Him would require surrendering everything (Luke 14:25-33). This is just as Jesus also chose to surrender everything, to come and die for humanity.
When Jesus helped those with leprosy—for instance—it was not necessarily to buy their acceptance to follow Him. He actually discouraged people from deciding to follow Him—after having benefitted from His services.
However, Jesus personally chose the disciples, whom He wanted to use—according to His purpose. To those disciples, this is why He had to declare:
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name”(John 15:16).
It is not necessarily the effort of missionaries to bring people to Christ. The key line for the missionaries—is simply to practice altruism—just as Jesus did. Passages of Scripture like; Luke 14:25-33, should suffice, in dealing with those committing their lives to Jesus.
The starting point is for the missionaries to appreciate that they would be going out to serve—just as Christ did. The grand mistake, in Christianity, is seeking benefits from those preached to. This is due to having not appreciated everything that Jesus taught, as Jesus also declared:
“………..You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”(Matthew 20:25-28)(NIV).
Jesus is teaching a principle of altruism, which is generally not acceptable to most people—thinking more in terms of receiving. Missionaries think more in terms of making converts and possible benefits from those converts. What Jesus said in the above Scripture would just be ignored.
The majority of those missionaries emphasise on tithing—which they unashamedly advocate without even making a single reference to Jesus’ inference to it. The fruits that are borne are the majority of people who call themselves Christians, yet not being Christians.
The second category, comprises people who subscribe to Christianity and practice all its virtues, on condition that they receive blessings. Testimonies abound, of people boasting about having been blessed because they gave to God. With charismatic preachers, chances are there—that the denominational Church quickly grows into becoming a mega Church.
It may be true that the life-styles of some of the converts manifest improvement in their life-styles, due to material blessings, resulting from tithing. However, in this category, serious disappointments also abound.
Spirituality is measured according to how much material blessings one displays. But others would be unable to receive, despite having done everything to deserve such material blessings. While popular—especially among countries reeling in poverty—the eventual demise of such Churches is inevitable.
The emphasis would be on teaching the principle of giving to the Lord, in order to be blessed. This is commonly known as advancing the prosperity gospel. The founders of such Churches turn out to be among the richest in the world.
Conspiracies begin to flow—as some people start questioning the wealth accumulation arrived at—by those church leaders. Stories abound, as some of those Church leaders end up being sued, by the disappointed ones.
The question remains, as to whether there would be true Christians, among the disappointed ones. This question includes Church leaders, as well. Only the truth is what brings people to freedom (John 8:31-32).
Nevertheless, those people call themselves ‘Christians’ and they would consider themselves legally bound to be called Christians. These people are found right across the Christian spectrum—regardless of denominational regulatory subscription.
The preachers could be castigated for abusing people for selfish motives. But the grieving ones ought to be castigated for submitting to being abused, due to their selfish motives, as well. Jesus brought a principle of altruism, which all these people—calling themselves ‘Christians’—simply ignore.
Let us now consider the third category—as also existing among all those Christians. These abide by the word of Jesus. Money is not the motivating factor in deciding to follow Christ. These people are even willing to lose their properties and lives for Jesus. Just as we know that in the first century the early disciples were murdered for Christ.
They practice altruism, but they are very few in numbers. Jesus declared: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14) (NIV).
These people are what comprises true Church that Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). You can abuse these people, or kill them, but all that is immaterial. They abide by what Jesus taught—without necessarily referring to human leadership.
Certainly, this world finds these people problematic—as not entertaining corruption or falsehood. In Churches where authoritarian culture is the norm, they are a hard nut to crack. They refuse to succumb to human authority, as they are bound in Christ Jesus. See [Where is the Church that Jesus founded?].
These people have learnt to rejoice and be glad, even though being persecuted left, right and centre (Matthew 5:11-12). There is no single Church whose membership can claim to solely represent such people.
They could, actually, be found among other religions of the world, other than Christianity. This is just as they do not worry about being labelled as ‘Christians,’ necessarily. They simply practice altruism, just as Jesus did.
They enjoy seeing improvements in other people’s lives and seek to contribute towards changes that make such differences. While those in other two categories seek to answer the question:
“In all my toiling on this planet, was I ever happy that I lived?” Those in this category, seek to answer the question: “In all my toiling on this planet, were most people glad that I lived?”
Unfortunately, this group cannot be as popular as most people think. A careful analysis shows that this is the only group that is qualified to be called by the title ‘Christian,’ as identifying with Jesus Christ.
This category does not, necessarily identify with anything of this world. As Christ did not impress anyone obsessed in culture and traditions of this world—these people, also, do not seek to impress or attract anyone, necessarily.
But they qualify to be called Children of God, just as Jesus qualified to be the Son of God. While they are forthright in their approach to the Bible, they do not condemn anyone. They seek to add value, rather than subtract value in each person. See [All Christians have pastoral responsibility].
This is because they recognize that each person was created in God’s image, and therefore deserves to be regarded highly, irrespective of living in sinful conditions. In other words, they make a positive difference in people’s lives.
What currently makes it difficult for many people to see the truth, is tradition. People are accustomed with hierarchical structures in Church organizations. The authoritarian culture, makes it difficult for weak people to practice what is not embraced by the system, as identifying with the person.
It takes a very brave character to project the truth, against the established authorities. The authoritarian culture makes a person feel guilty, when supposing that submission to authority is what Christ requires. But Christ taught that Christians ought to abide by His word only.
This category recognizes that there is no room for disrespecting other fellow human beings—even though having not yet seen the light. It is only Jesus who takes glory in everything that a truly converted person projects, in his/her Christian endeavours.
There is no need to question the responsibilities of a truly converted person—as it is the Holy Spirit that leads, from then on. The most important thing, for them, is to shrug off falsehood and submit to the Spirit, according to the person’s conviction. See [Christianity is full-time job for the baptized].
Having committed oneself to follow Christ, a person cannot continue to be obsessed in other activities. One cannot be a Christian for lacking other things to do. The Spirit leads from then on—and the person would be no longer afraid of death. This is why Paul said one becomes a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-8)
Submission to God’s Spirit implies that God would be the one doing whatever needs to be done, through that individual. Opposition is to be expected—just as Christ faced stern opposition during His time on earth. However, Christ is aware of mixture of good and evil in Christianity:
“….The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the whet and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them ‘An enemy has done this’ so the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together unto the harvest and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into barn’”(Matthew 13:24-30) (ESV).
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99