If you ask most people who are deeply steeped in what I call “cultural Christianity” most of them will tell you that a Christian is someone who has “accepted Jesus into their heart.”
Of course no where in scripture is that the recipe for how to become a Christian. In fact Jesus seemed to only ask people to “Follow me.” Which is another way of saying follow my example and my teachings.
When Jesus was asked in Matthew 22:34 what the greatest “Commandment”, or in other words; “What’s the most significant thing you teach? Jesus answered not by forsaking all that Judaism was offering to people, but by summing up the essence of Judaism (which is his teaching-Christianity) by saying all the (moral/covenantal) laws hang on these two things:
- Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.
- Love your neighbor as yourself. (Treat others as you would have them treat you.)
Almost every world religion share this truth and part 2 is echoed in almost every moral code established in societies since the beginning.
Let me make these observations:
- Following Jesus is not an “on/off” switch. It’s more like a dimmer switch. This means that the most devout person will still make decisions that stem from parts of their thinking where they don’t really believe in Jesus.
- This is also true for the person who says they are not believers in Jesus. They will make decisions out of the desire to “do the right thing” and in doing so they will follow Jesus’ teaching without thinking about it in those categories.
- Since both believers and unbelievers are both “partial unbelievers”, what is the determining factor for who is “Kingdom type of person?”
(Note: most fundamentalist interpret the Kingdom of Heaven as a place we go, rather than the life and world we create now-which I think is a misinterpretation. Jesus seemed to be telling a story, not about how to get people to heaven, but how usher Heaven into the world already and that at over time the two will be indistinguishable.)
So back to the question in #3.
Jesus told the most religious people of the day (who also shared this “Exclusive evacuation strategy”): “Tax collectors and Prostitutes will go into the Kingdom before you will.”
In other words, there are more kingdom type people among tax collectors and prostitutes than among you religious oppressors.
In fact, he told a story about two sons (Matt 21:28-32) who he asked to go and work in the vineyard. The first said, “I’ll go.” but then didn’t go work. The second son said “I won’t go.” but thought better of it and went. And when Jesus asked which son did the will of the father (Followed the teaching) they obviously answered (the one who went and did the work).
So it really isn’t about a persons’ profession of faith. It doesn’t really matter if you call yourself a Christian or not.
- Christians often make claims and then do the opposite. Hypocrisy is the stain of all religious people.
- Or a person can not make the claim, and then live the right way. (this is the trend for most modern people)
Which is better?
- Claiming to love God but failing in your following.
- Or to have doubts about whether God is real, but striving to live the best you know how?
If you answered 2, then I think you are a kingdom person. Because the most sincere people I’ve ever met, both believers and unbelievers, share a humble solidarity with each other around their doubts and imperfections, and a quiet trust that if there is a God, then he sees their heart.
The difference between the two is only that one has come to a place where they can separate out the teachings of Christ from the fouled up delivery system (cultural church), and the others are still concluding that they are the same thing and for good reasons keep their distance.
Can I encourage you to consider that all along when you have sacrificially done the right thing even though it was hard, that you did so not just with integrity to yourself, but you did so with integrity to God, even though you may not have known it at the time.
But now its my hope that the next time, you will be able to perceive him in the process. To see the king behind this kingdom you’ve been building.