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What is True Christianity?

By Richard Zowie

Note: This column was originally published in the San Antonio Christian Beacon and was later republished in Saworship.com with permission.

Have you ever had a question that has really plagued you for an answer? Maybe it’s the name of a catchy song you remember from high school, or perhaps you might be wondering what must have went through Samson’s mind when he realized two things: he had lost his God-given strength and he was about to be humbled in the most humiliating way possible.

And for me, there’s one question that might help me to become a better Christian, if I can ever get solid answers to it:

What is true Christianity?

I think have a few ideas, based on what I’ve observed in a quarter century of being a Christian. It involves more than just reading the Bible, getting dressed up and attending church on Sundays. If you think it solely involves socializing at potluck dinners or saying a prayer at mealtime, think again. It requires something substantial and lasting.

With this, I wanted to touch on six thoughts that begin to give us an idea of what true Christianity is all about. I will also include some thoughts from some friends to whom I asked this question. Some of these thoughts might seem radical, but all I ask is that you take some time to ponder them. In the future, Lord willing, I may feature occasional profiles of what I see as true Christianity in action.

First thought: Indiscretions and sins of clergy members shouldn’t be tolerated under any circumstances. Ministers who engage in extramarital affairs, molest children or engage in sexual relations with the underaged have no place whatsoever in the ministry. As far as I’m concerned, shame on the church officials who are alerted of accusations and choose to shelf them. Jesus has something to say in Matthew 18:6 about ministers who harm children: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Furthermore, ministers who have sexual affairs or are caught doing other inappropriate things should be swiftly held accountable. Granted, God forgives, but God also holds us accountable for our sins. Read the story of King David and the mess that erupted in his household and eventually his kingdom due to his sins. Tolerating indiscretions inside the church is one of the quickest ways to destroy the church’s testimony to the lost-not to mention its credibility.

Second thought: Christians should take a firm, unapologetic stand for what they believe. This notion of politicians saying “religion is a private thing for me” is garbage. I have absolutely no respect whatsoever for a political candidate-conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat or Libertarian-who talks of having a deep relationship with Jesus Christ but supports legislation that would help to continue the holocaust of unborn children. This type of person is exactly whom Jesus spoke of when he referred to millstones. Anyone who has a set of religious beliefs and a totally different set of political beliefs is selling out God.

One friend responded with this profound thought: “True Christianity discerns the difference between tolerance and approval.” It’s one thing to respect a person’s God-given free will in choosing their own paths in life, but it’s another thing to stand next to them and tell them that we agree with what they’re doing. Many people will tell you of how Jesus told those about to stone the adulteress to not cast a stone unless they were without sin, but they forget what He told the woman in John 8:11, “Go and sin no more.”

Third thought: Christianity shouldn’t be about seeking out fame or rewards; instead, it should be about helping people come to Christ and ministering to Christians. Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6 that whenever we do things to do so as discreetly as possible. I have certainly been guilty of this in the past, and I wonder how many Christians do good things in hopes of receiving a plaque or applause instead of simply trying to be a blessing in someone’s life. If you’re involved in a ministry or project because of a desire for an award or attention, please reconsider your motives.

Fourth thought: the lost should see us as friendly and approachable, but they should still see a difference in our lives. I heard an evangelist once say that carrying around a 52-pound Bible and sanctimoniously telling people that they’re vile sinners in need of repentance simply won’t work. When friends or co-workers find out you’re a Christian, chances are pretty good they’ll watch you carefully. Any joke you tell, any music you like to listen to or any movie you like to watch will be scrutinized. There’s a balance to maintain: God wants us to be sociable toward the lost but not to the point to where our lifestyles are no different than theirs. Some might prefer “Cafeteria Christianity” to where they pick and choose their own beliefs and convictions, but we open up doors of opportunity when someone tells us: “There’s something different about you. Could you tell me about it?”

Fifth thought: Be a friend to any guest at church. What would your reaction be if you see a visitor in church adorned in clothes that are too big, too small, horribly out of style or look as though they were acquired in a rummage sale? What if that person doesn’t have the best personal hygiene habits? The natural reaction might be to hide one’s face behind the nearest 52-pound Bible, but the right thing to do is to offer the “right hand of fellowship” and welcome them to the house of God. Jesus ate with sinners, showed compassion toward prostitutes, associated with undesirables that the Israelites rejected and even touched lepers. I’m not suggesting you enter the personal space of a person stricken with a highly-communicable disease, but I am suggesting that you show enough concern and warmth to a visitor to make them think it was worth their time to visit your church. Who knows, they might get saved or even become a church member. You never know who might become the next Billy Graham, basketball star David Robinson, Country music singer Clifton Jansky or comedienne Chonda Pierce.

Sixth thought: Show compassion to the less fortunate. This should not be the job of government. We’ve learned time and again that the more government tries to get involved in social programs, the more it complicates and confuses things. James 1:27 tells us: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction…” Being the grandson of an orphan, I find this passage particularly interesting. If we see an orphan in need of food, clothing or a parental figure, God wants us to help them out. Jude 22 tells us to make a difference by showing compassion, and having compassion on the parentless is the best way to show them God cares about them. By being a parental figure, we can help orphans choose a life of Christ instead of a life of loneliness or crime.

Perhaps fewer things are more painful than losing a spouse after decades of marriage, and God wants us to show concern to widows and widowers. Visit with them. Be a friend. Ask them to reminisce about their spouse. Take part in an activity about them.

There are countless other examples of Christianity, but these six are ones that have stricken me the most lately. To continue winning souls and edifying the body of Christ, we must daily examine our faith and find what convictions and beliefs are truly of God and which are of man. Ponder them and let me know what you think.

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