What is a Christian? A Christian is, first and foremost, a sinner. I get so sick and tired of the non-Christian view of us as sanctimonious do-gooders who don't have a foul bone in our body. I know full well this attitude is based more from an attempt to make us look like hypocrites every time one of us falls short of Christ's ideal -- which is only every single day -- to weaken the faith rather than out of respect. However, non-Christians are always thinking Christians are lily-white and pure as the wind-driven snow. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Much more so annoying to me than the non-Christian having thins opinion is when the Christian does. I despise it when Christians think that just because they have turned their life over to God and accepted Christ as their savior that they are now no longer sinners and are, therefore, better than everyone else. We are not better than anyone else, we are still sinners, and we are in fact held to a much higher standard than is the non-Christian. If you only ever accept Jesus as your savior then do not make an attempt to live a sinless life and recognize when you fall short, then you are only pretending to be a Christian and will be judged far more severely than the non-Christian ever could be.
Christians are sinners, just like everyone else. It was the dreadful weight of our sins, the burden of our mistakes, that drove us to our knees to begin with and made us accept Jesus as our savior and to ask Him for help. But even after doing this we are sinners. Everyday, in every way, we continue to sin. The only difference between us and the rest of the world is that we are very well aware of these sins, we ask forgiveness when we do sin, and we make a very earnest and honest attempt to not fall into the trap of that sin again. But that doesn't make us sinless. It only makes us willing to recognize ourselves as sinners and eager to ask forgiveness and try harder.
Let me personalize this by putting my own sins on the line. God made me a very passionate, sensual, person-centered man so I could do my work as a social worker with the intensity needed to heal the sick. The Devil has twisted that gift -- and I've allowed him to do it -- such that I'm a lusty and and sexually obsessed man as well. If I allowed myself, I could be a complete hedonist, living a life of sexual debauchery. In my youth, I did allow myself to fall into that trap of sexual sin before I was fully dedicated to Christ. Yet even now, I struggle with that sin. I fight the urge to flirt more than I know I should, I fight the desire to lust a woman in my heart, I need to make a conscious effort not to sin in a very real flesh-on-flesh way. I have sin in my heart, which is bad enough, but I need to fight to make sure that sin doesn't flow into the real world. So I see my sin, recognize my sin, ask forgiveness for my sin, try not to sin in the same way, and when I fail, ask for forgiveness all over again. This I do because I have faith Jesus Christ, and I know He will forgive me and help me do better. But in the end, I am painfully well aware of the fact that I am a sinner.
So what else is a Christian? A Christian is compassionate, being aware of others' pain and struggles and wanting to help. A Christian is accepting, loving all people as God made them, even if they despise the sin in their lives. A Christian is forgiving, following the pattern set by God Himself in our daily lives and not holding grudges for the injuries done to us. A Christian is peaceful, always trying to use words and God's love to resolve any situation. A Christian is aware of all God's creation and takes a personal responsibility in caring for it. A Christian is full of faith, always believing that God is in control of things and that things will turn out all right, no matter how bleak they look at the time. A Christian is aware of the suffering of others, especially the weak, the poor, the down-trodden, and he oppressed, and is willing to do what they can to end their pain. A Christian is humble, recognizing that, in the end, they are nothing but a dirty sinner, and has received God's grace not because they deserve it, but only because God loves them so very, very much. A Christian loves all human life and fights to persevere it.
Look hard at this list of attributes. See anything odd? What I find ironic about this list is that, while Christians are always being railed against for being closed-minded and sanctimonious, the real fact of the matter is that the very belief system considered to be "modern" is in fact Christian. Aren't these the same list of attributes we wish more people espoused, whether Christian or not? Don't commentators constantly remark on the need for more of these behaviors, even as they criticize Christians for being thoughtless and cruel? Isn't this the very base of the modern world?
It is, of course, painfully true that not all Christians live like this. Many Christians continue to live as sinners in sin their whole lives, never making any attempt to change. They are two-faced and hypocritical, and are the very lowest form of liar. However, there are many teachers that are cruel to children, many policemen who are criminal, many soldiers who are cowards, many parents who are neglectful. Yet do we judge the group by the exception. Dare I say it, there are many blacks who deal drugs, many whites who are racist, many Jews that are cheap, many Hispanics who commit crimes, many Asians who can't drive, many gays who are girly and many lesbians who are butch. Yet in out hypersensitive world, would we ever dare to publicly denounce the whole group by the few individuals who exhibit these attributes? Of course not. Then why do we judge the totality of Christianity by those who do not fit the mold?
Historically, Christianity has not always lived up to its promise. The dominance of society by the church in Medieval Europe, the Spanish Inquisition, the Thirty Years War, the forced conversions of Jews and American Indians. But these represent a complete rejection of the teaching of Christ in the Bible, are were a willful twisting of the Word to suit specific, evil, very real world wants. This is a tragedy, but hardly represents what Christianity is. Yet, once again, the exception is held up to defy the norm.
Ultimately, though, the Christian represents the very best of the modern world. Everything that is wrong with our world is because of the rejection of Christian values, while the surest fix for what is broken is more Christianity. What can we do to make that happen? What can you do, today, right now, to make that happen?