Sure, I believe in Jesus Christ. I attend a church service or two every week and occasionally read my Bible. But sitting on a pew does not make me a Christian any more than standing in a bank makes me wealthy. My relative location to Christian things and spaces does not transfer to me Christ like character. I may go to church, but I am not a Christian.
I pray when I need something and worship only when it’s convenient. I give, yet often grudgingly and sparingly. I forgive, but only when it might benefit me. I serve, but only when called upon to do so and offered acknowledgement and reward. I love, but only when love is offered in return. I bless, but only those who have blessed me. I care, but often only for those who I feel are deserving of care. I sacrifice, but only after I have been shamed, rewarded, or pressured to do so. The more I read the BIble, and then examine my life in light of how Christ lived, the more I am convinced, I am not a Christian.
He ate with sinners and politicians without one reservation as to how the company he kept would effect His reputation. He touched people He should have never even talked to. He healed people that His culture didn’t even demand He recognize as persons. He went out of His way, and often, to minister a small thing to one individual in a meaningful way. He showed kindness and grace to everyone, except for those who felt they deserved it. It was with the religious that Jesus argued, the hypocrites he rebuked, and it was the self-righteous which He humbled. The people I’m most comfortable with, church people, were the ones Jesus felt most at odds with. The people He invested in were those with failures and sin, the same people I avoid.
He sacrificed all and asked nothing in return. He was a man of “sorrows and acquainted with grief” knowing that millions throughout history would reject His love. He was giving, loving, gracious, virtuous, kind, merciful, long-suffering, faithful and true. I find in myself that I am selfish, ungrateful, hard hearted, impatient, demanding, dishonest, intemperate, corrupt, deceptive and unfaithful. I am not a Christian.
It was John Piper who, when asked what if anything might cause him to disbelieve in God, said, “If anything might cause me to disbelieve in God it would be how painfully slow and inefficient the sanctification process has been in me.” I take comfort in the fact that Paul wrestled with the same assessment of himself. He called himself the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) and confessed that he felt as though he had not yet attained Christ-likeness, but he was still trying (Phil. 3). He wrestled with his nature and called himself carnal and sinful (Rom. 7:14-25) acknowledging that “the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do”.
If being a Christian is defined in generic terms as anything associated with the teachings of Jesus Christ then I suppose I could call myself a Christian. However, if being a Christian means possessing the character and virtue of Christ, then I am not a Christian.
What I am is a believer, a follower of Christ, who all too often falls short of being like my Lord. However, I am still a disciple of His. I am redeemed, justified and still trying. I believe if I remain subject to the Holy Spirit Christ will continue to be formed in me and someday I will be like Him for I will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). The truth, right now, is that I am not a Christian. Not yet.