Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What Does it Really Mean to be a Christian?

I'm starting a series on what I think is most misunderstood by Christians about Christ, life, and the Bible. This is all based on my life and my growing, and still incomplete, understanding of these things. This is an advantage.  I'm not claiming to know everything or to be certain of anything.  I am only questioning and those willing to question can find answers with me. Much of what I will cover will rock the foundations of your beliefs. Why?  Because they did for me.  And it was necessary for me to have the FAITH I have now.  If anything, they made me more secure in what I believe, who I am, who I want to become, and what I am here to do and be.

What is a Christian?

When I was a devout churchgoer, I remember one Sunday listening to my pastor talk about the life of Jesus.  He talked about the miracles Jesus performed, struggles he faced, the ministry he had, the teachings of Jesus and even his suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection.  At that time, I believed that Jesus and Christ were the same (more on that later). I wanted, minus the crucifixion part, to follow that example and to emulate him. I wanted to be Christlike in this generation. It’s like something in my soul was crying out for it. I thought that it was possible to be like a re-incarnation or re-iteration of Jesus.

At that time, being a Christian meant being saved. Believing in the death and resurrection of Jesus and inviting Jesus “into my heart.”  I had to go to church every Sunday and worship Jesus. I had to witness and spread the Gospel with the intent of winning souls; becoming a “fisher of men.”  I couldn’t cuss or use God’s name in vain. Every prayer had to end “in Jesus Name.” I wasn’t supposed to listen to secular music or have sex before I was married (which is hard on a gay man who -at the time- couldn’t legally be married...LOL).  Oh and of course, I couldn’t be gay. And you probably know, there is a much longer laundry list of do’s and don'ts that Christians are held to. And of course unless I asked for forgiveness for my sins, if I failed to follow the rules I was going to hell. But since I was born in sin and that was at the core of my nature, I was trapped in this cycle of sinning and asking forgiveness and hoping that death or the rapture didn’t occur before I got back to the forgiveness part.

It didn’t quite make sense that God loved me unconditionally, yet I was held to all of these conditions in order to get to a place called heaven. Jesus said that all the things he did he did through the Father within him, not of himself. Was not that same “Father” speaking to and working through the prophets and holy men of the Old Testament? Couldn’t that same “Father” be in and work through me? And if being “saved” was the only way to get to heaven, what happened to all those from the Old Testament, including Abraham? There were so many questions; so many things that just didn’t make sense.

So I was left with one fundamental question:

“What does it REALLY mean to be a Christian?”

I think this quote sums up the answer for me:

“Look through the Bible and nowhere does Jesus say, ‘Worship me.’ His call to us was ‘follow me.’ There’s a big difference.” Pam Grout, E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality

Jesus, in selecting his disciples, encouraged them to follow him. To me, following means to travel with, learn from, and emulate. So if I were to look at how Jesus lived, from what is chronicled about his life in the Bible, I would see that he was all about loving others, sharing with others, and correcting the misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the scriptures and the law as they knew it at that time. As a matter of fact, most of what Jesus is known for is reinterpreting the scriptures that Judaism was based on and chastising the religious establishment of his time.  Now THIS is something I can do.

I realized that “Christ” is a Spirit present in each living soul. Jesus didn’t come to be the only Christ.  He came to be the example of living AS CHRIST.  He was teaching his disciples to harness the power of Christ that was within them, so that he could pass the torch to them, so that they could express that to others on down through the generations. Jesus exemplified being one with God as Father and as Universal Presence. He showed how that oneness expressed through Faith and manifested as a life of love, service and living life at our fullest potential, life abundant.

I can definitely do that. I can follow Jesus and recognize Christ within me. Through trial and questioning, I can grow in wisdom and discover my oneness with The Father.  Because I am not looking to Jesus, but to his example AND to the source of the things he accomplished, I can be and do the GREATER THINGS Jesus spoke on in John 14:12.

I am a Christian

So I do choose to classify myself as a Christian because I follow and study the teachings of Christ.  Teachings that have come through Jesus, Buddha, Zoroaster, T.D. Jakes, Joel Olsteen, Deepak Chopra, Mike Dooley, don Miguel Ruiz, friends and strangers throughout the years, and probably most importantly myself. Now when I say “Christ,” I am referring to the Spirit of God that resides in each one of us, otherwise stated as the extension of God that is life and gives life to our bodies (but more on this is a later post). And by teachings, I mean the revelations that are shared through those who are tune in, tapped in, and turned on by this Spirit.

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