Just read a great post by Jim Herrington.
He raises such a great set of questions about what it means to be a Christian (literally, “little christ”). Acts 11:26 tells us that it was at Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christian”. These believers were Greeks, they first heard the Gospel from other believers who scattered in the midst of persecution after the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7). And they were raised up in the faith under the instruction of Barnabas and Paul. And they were called Christians.
To be a Christian in Acts 11 was to be called to a new view of the world – away from one in which many pagan gods called for shared allegiance – into one where Jesus pointed to an exclusive God, and even revealed that God in His own flesh. Called away from the practices of pagan ritual, Greek cultural values of sexuality, and into a life of purity through faith in Jesus.
Integrity seems to be so important in scripture – today we might say, “Walk your talk.” Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount from Matthew 5 that our interior thoughts and attitudes should match our outward actions – don’t just be good on the inside, but, as Paul says, “allow your mind to be transformed so that you may be made new.” (Rom 12:2).
So, Jim’s question is – who’s more a Christian? The person who openly admits that they are a sinner struggling to be faithful to Jesus. Or the one who acts outwardly like he has everything together, keeping his sins hidden from view. Neither is finally God’s full desire – we are called to be righteous, not to say, “Yep, I’m a sinner, but thank God I’m saved by the grace of Jesus,” and to just go on sinning without concern (Rom 6:1). Rather, we are to acknowledge our sins before another (James 5:16). No one is without sin – we are either seeking to be honest about our sin, or we are seeking to hide it. And then we either are comfortable with our sin, or we repent and seek to be transformed.
The challenge, or a challenge, that we face is remaining a community of integrity that both holds one another mutually accountable to move toward lives of righteousness through faith in Christ, while at the same time remaining communities of amazing grace – where the fallen have a home, a place of refuge, a sanctuary. Striking this balance seems a large enough task that it can only be accomplished by the grace of Jesus Christ and the power of God through the Holy Spirit in our lives.
May we know both as we seek to serve and to lead according to the call upon our lives.