This statement can lead to endless debates, unnecessarily. What is projected as a Christian religion, today, is diametrically opposed to what Jesus taught. The two simplest factors, distinguishing Christianity against other religions, are inclusivity and worship terms. Other religions are exclusive, placing conditions before one can be accepted. One is excluded, if unwilling to conform to the set rules.
For example, circumcision qualifies proselytes into Judaism. Laws, traditions, and customs are designed to exclude those unwilling to conform. All religions carry distinguishing factors that cannot be mistaken for others. This is different from true Christianity, whose author, Jesus, did not discriminate. He introduced a Kingdom, as opposed to religion.
When using a Good Samaritan parable—illustrating qualification for God’s Kingdom—His intention was not to express a religious opinion. Baptism should not be mistaken for exclusivity, as simply demonstrating a spiritual avowal for adopting a new behavior in one’s life.
Randomly asking what makes one a Christian; invites diverse answers equalling the number of those questioned. Others suppose that Christianity means avoiding pork, alcohol, and smoke. Yet others associate it with strict law-keeping, regular Church attendance and involvement in helping the poor.
Generally, most people view Christianity as tenaciously seeking to out-compete other religions. But, Christianity is not a religion. True Christians may not even be comfortable, being labeled “Christians”. Of course, practicing Christianity under some other religion can be difficult––when viewed as a badge of honor. But Christianity takes full responsibility for the sinful humanity, without consideration of religious background.
Jesus practiced what was also practiced by Paul, who was everything to everyone (1 Cor. 9:19-23). This is like doing everything required of being Islam, as long as not violating Christ’s law of love (Rom. 13:9-10). Persecution comes, as price of Christianity, when opposing those against love.
An unnecessary problem arises when foolishly boasting about Christianity, among Moslems, for instance. Practicing true love does not require a comparison between Christianity and Islam. One can practice Christianity among Moslems, as long as being wise as a serpent, yet harmless as a dove (Matt. 10:16). Jesus was circumcised, like other Jewish boys of that time (Luke 2:21).
But Jesus avoided conforming to customs not coherent with Godly principles. At age twelve, He had already started doing His father’s business (Luke 2:41-50). On Sabbath days, He preached in Synagogues, in accordance with Jewish traditions. Yet also mingling with outsiders, including an avowed adulterous Samaritan woman (John 4:7-29).
All this was unacceptable in Jewish customs, which Christ ignored. That behavior was culpable in causing His crucifixion––yet enabling the successful establishment of His ministry. What makes His story interesting is the opposition that led to His crucifixion. Without such caustic treatment on the cross, His story would be ordinary––without significance or relevance to our salvation.
Christianity––seeking to restore life, instead of taking it away––does not identify with the current civilization. True Christians––as conduits for converting others––display unconditional love, when facing rough experiences. They take no comfort in adulations––directing all credits to Christ. Those bearing such responsibilities are God’s children (Matt. 5:9).
The challenge of practicing Christianity is also found among diverse denominations. It is impossible to comfortably assert that doing the right thing is like walking in the park. Practicing Christianity is as difficult as traveling on a narrow road (Matt. 7:13-14).
The challenges faced by Christians lies in the failure to appreciate differences between faith “in” Jesus and upholding the Faith “of” Jesus. Having faith “in” Jesus does not make one a Christian. But holding the Faith “of” Jesus makes one truly a Christian––as identified with Jesus. A true Christian is a blessing to everyone, just as Jesus was.
The term ‘Christian’ itself, was first introduced at Antioch––by those derogatively using it against early disciples (Acts 11:26). Those Christians were not separated from other humans (John 17:15). They intermingled with everyone, teaching and practicing Christianity, without necessarily calling themselves “Christians.”
In our modern generations, opposing Christianity sounds fictitious. Except for areas stuck in radical religious fanaticism, as sporadically featuring in public media. In most modern nations, religious tolerance is upheld. Though, most people adopt Christianity without fully applying its principles. The Religious label stuck on Christianity causes misunderstanding. Christianity, projecting God’s mind, cannot be identified with the religions of this world.
When answering Philip, Christ declared: “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father…..” (John 14:8-9 KJV). Christ confidently asserted: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” True Christians are like Jesus when projecting God’s mind. This is understood in the context of perfect unity.
Jesus invites humanity into this perfect Godhead family. We are at one with God when conforming to His will. This is what makes the gospel good. God saves the entire humanity; not only those considered good (John 3:16-17 as linked with 2 Peter. 3:9). Everything that Jesus did, physically associating with humanity, was exactly according to God’s will. Jesus avoided two common errors:
(a) Conformity––He avoided Jewish customs and traditions, as His mind was consistently linked up with God. Jesus was not bothered about people’s opinions. This caused His enmity with the Jews––whose traditions and customs were against God’s will. Those comfortable in group traditions, cannot comfortably state: “anyone who has seen me has seen Jesus.” Possible, when opening up to Him, who declares:
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20 NIV).
Commitment to one’s pastor, instead of upholding the faith of Jesus, remains the major stumbling block for many Christians. If Christ said anyone having seen Him had seen His Father, the same applies, for true Christians. Obviously, this sounds too bold a claim, by mere men. But applicable to those adopting the faith of Jesus.
There is no need to idolize Jesus when adopting His standards. Jesus was as human as we are––though without sin. Judas had to use a kiss to expose Him against others. He was the Christ, but being like us in humanness (John 6:51 KJV).
(b) Idolatry is the second error—coming in many forms––but the most common being worship on the basis of what is seen––to authenticate belief. Things visualized in human senses cannot describe God.
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exod. 20:4 KJV).
Thomas, notwithstanding being with Jesus towards crucifixion, needed tangible proof. “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:24-29 KJV). Thomas needed proof, to quench his unbelief. But to be on the side of the blessed ones, visual proof is unnecessary.
Jesus had consistently proclaimed all processes towards crucifixion and later, His resurrection. This proved His Messiahship––in the presence of all His disciples (Matt. 12:40). Exposed by his doubt, Thomas had not been committed to Jesus. When guided by truth, one assumes that Thomas ought not to have accepted the apostleship.
Idolatry manifests itself mostly, amongst those idolizing Church Leaders––especially those leaders with the ability to perform miracles. Such idolaters fail to ask themselves the following question: “Who and what is God doing in my own life?” Idolizing miracle performers is clear idolatry.
Those attached to Pastors, cannot appreciate that those Pastors are also susceptible to sin, (Matt. 24:24-25). Others miss God’s truths, due to disapproving of the preacher—viewed as not befitting of being used by God. Even positions of authority get allocated, based on a person’s economic profile.
“…For if a man comes into your Synagogue in fair clothing and with a gold ring, and a poor man comes in with dirty clothing, And you do honour to the man in fair clothing and say, Come here and take this good place; and you say to the poor man, Take up your position there, or be seated at my feet; Is there not a division in your minds? Have you not become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4 BBE).
The most popular evangelists are those prominent by virtue of their fabulous and charismatic evangelistic campaigns. Before knowing, their followers idolize them. Apollos may have been one of such leaders in Paul’s time (1 Corinthians 1:12-13). This should not be construed as suggesting that such evangelists should be despised. Christians should connect with God, rather than human leaders—as Christ warned:
“I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:17-20 KJV).
It is possible to perform astonishing miracles in Christ’s name and yet have one’s name excluded in heaven. I suppose it could have been safer for those apostles to have phrased their statement differently, like: “Lord, even the devils are subject unto you, through us.”
They had not been inherent with that power. Paul and Barnabas attempted to effectively handle such stupidity––as detrimental to preachers and worshipers alike (Acts 14:11-15). Even today, most Christians still idolize Paul. To them, the idea of Christ dwelling in their own lives is completely unimaginable.
Yet one becomes a Christian when Christ dwells in one’s own life—similarly to how Christ dwelt in Paul and other apostles. A Christian is not under the dictates of old customs and traditions. If the old person used to be fascinated by miracles and charisma, the new person disregards those. Our physical nature—regardless of background—is from Adam, corrupted by the Garden of Eden incident.
A Christian takes parentage in God, through Jesus. Most people want to be regarded as good Christians, but unable to confidently declare: “Anyone who has seen me has seen Jesus.” They find it irresistible to continue in the comfort of social customs. Like Thomas, they pretend to believe, when the opposite is true.
Declaring being like Jesus––with conducts still questionable––is possible through Jesus’ blood! What detaches us from God is insincerity––characterized in holding two opinions in one. A Christian is not what a person necessarily imagines, or what other people imagine. But what God thinks of that individual.
God’s will should prevail, even under difficult conditions. Jesus managed to resist His own will at Gethsemane, in favor of God’s will (Matt. 26:36-42). One cannot be Christian when allured or intimidated by physical things. Paul declared:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20 KJV).
However, no-one should be naive, as to imagine being identified as true Christian. Jesus remained steadfast, yet being associated with Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24). “Everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). No-one should be attracted to Christianity for what one favorably gets from it, but by what one gives––like Jesus.
One does not have to hold some fanciful title––according to men’s standards. Or belong to some denomination, or be called “Christian”. Also, this disregards class, background or status. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35 KJV).
Having done well, only to receive insults, makes one a true Christian and among the happiest ones in the world (Matt. 5:11–12). The physical body can be crushed. But the Spirit cannot be crushed. Loving enemies, even with good reason to hate, projects true Christianity. Jesus’ persecutors succeeded in having Him crucified, but could not destroy His cause.
A dead person has no impact on others. Yet Christ continues to impact millions. Those Pharisees would be awestruck by the achievements of the man they assumed having silenced at the crucifixion. That name remains powerful across the world. The production of this article enhances that testimony.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Phil. 4:8 NIV). Here, Paul is silent on things not praiseworthy.
What makes Christ’s teachings sustainable is the love that endures forever. Christ hated no-one—showing mercy even to those zealously contributing to His crucifixion. That behavior causes God’s Kingdom to come to reality at last:
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4: 22–24 NIV).
What is true, ceases to be of the author. May the reader be blessed and share with others. Even when experiencing treacherous endeavors––as observed among those embracing Christianity—when guided only by self-centredness, instead of altruism.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the 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 relief to those having witnessed the 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
Also available as an e-copy at Lulu.com for $6.99