What does it mean to be a Christian?

While not a gambler, if I were, I’d bet that upon asking twelve people that question, you would most likely get twelve different answers.

The obvious answer to us  is to follow Christ. Yet, as you dive in deeper with individual people, the answers begin to become more complex. Sometimes you don’t even have to ask: People will tell you what it means to be a Christian, regardless of whether or not you share that belief.

Over the years, I’ve been told by neighbors, family, friends and religious leaders all manner of explanations: It’s what you do, it’s what you think, it’s how you act, it’s who you are, it’s what you say, it’s what you believe. I’ve even had one person tell me that God was talking to her about me and was reaching out to me, wanting a relationship with me, while another told me that the hand of God was already upon me, guiding and loving me in the powerful relationship that I already had with Him.

Interesting that two people with such strong relationships with God heard two very different things from Him about me. I don’t know whether I should feel honored that He talks to them about me or a little unnerved that others are taking on that responsibility of speaking to me on His behalf. The conflicting natures of their conversations lead me to focus on the latter rather than the former.

For the record, I follow the upbringing of my Mennonite father and my ancestors before them. You see, I’m very private about my spiritual beliefs. I neither evangelize nor do I share my beliefs unless asked…which is very infrequent. Ironically, I have found that the most vocal people do NOT inquire about others’ beliefs but are more than willing to share their own , often even without having been asked. They are also very interested in telling others what they should or shouldn’t do and how they should or shouldn’t worship. And if someone crosses the proverbial line in the sand (i.e. questioning them or stating their own beliefs), there can be severe backlash, often in a very public forum.

I have learned, often the hard way, that silence cannot be misquoted.

So why am I writing about this today?

The Bible states:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29.

In the recent past, I have noticed the increasing corruption of the “tongue” (or, in this case, “fingers”) easily afforded by technology, which seems to increasingly lend itself to self-proclaimed good Christians demonstrating very poor, unchristian-like behavior. Online bashing of other people, whether for personal or professional gain, is not a demonstration of what I personally consider Christian behavior. Of course, as I stated, I prefer to not force others to share in my beliefs. Perhaps there are, indeed, factions of Christianity that permit such malicious and negative gossip that is focused on the destruction of an individual or organization. I, however, have yet to meet one of those groups that sanction such behavior.

Social media is not a platform for tearing people down. It is a platform for sharing ideas, thoughts, humor, and support. Yet, there is an increase in Christians misusing this platform for their own personal and/or professional gain, in the hopes of ruining the reputation of another. In addition, technology affords many people opportunities that, without the its ease  , they would never be able to enjoy.

A fellow author made a very wise comment, the other day: “If I reap what I sow, why is my garden full of weeds?”  I responded that this comment was perfect for some of the people posting malicious comments on social media, as of late.. While you didn’t ask, I will share that I believe that more people need to reflect on this statement: I see an awful lot of people questioning their “harvest” (or lack thereof) but refusing to look in the mirror to see what it was that they truly planted.

I guess it is easier to blame others for personal or professional failures rather than consider one’s own contribution to the problem or responsibility for its solution. And, unfortunately, social media presents the perfect platform for doing just that.

I challenge you, dear readers and friends, to look at your own garden. A garden requires work. It requires love and attention. There will be days when many weeds pop up and need to be plucked. Ignoring them presents the risk of the good crops being smothered by the bad weeds. If the garden is not growing as you planned, perhaps it is time to evaluate why. Was the soil good? Is the temperature appropriate? Did you pay enough attention to it or just plant it and walk away, expecting nature to nurture it? Did you plant your garden in your neighbor’s yard and expect it to grow according to your needs without considering theirs? Or are you watching your neighbors’ gardens and criticizing how they tend to theirs rather than focusing on your own?

I will leave you with one more Scripture from the New Testament, one that, I hope, will guide you in recognizing the importance of avoiding those individuals who value the public flaying of others over the goodness that abounds in Christ:

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. James 1:26