I recently read this quote from an unknown source and loved it: “Christianity is a verb.” Think about it! We may not hear it as much as we used to, but even now, we hear people say, “I am a Christian.”
But if someone asked the person making that declaration (or even asked you or me) to define or explain what being a Christian really means, we probably would all disagree on the correct definition.
From what I have read and been taught, the first time in biblical history that the followers of Jesus were actually called Christians was at Antioch (See Acts 11:26). Ironically, the initial action of these newly named Christians was voting to send famine relief and aid to their brothers and sisters in Judea through the hands of Paul and Barnabas.
The strangest part of this biblical account of the believers in Antioch is that the famine had not even occurred yet. These Christians heard through one of their prophets that a famine was on its way, so they immediately sent aid with the mere prediction of an impending famine (History backs that prophecy).
Talk about quick service! As always, God shows up right on time with His perfect help. Often, that help comes from the hands, feet, and hearts of His followers – if we are willing to hear His voice and obey.
Hearing and obeying are just one set of actions required for being a Christ-follower. Granted, it is not our works that save us; it is by God’s grace that we are able to receive the gift of salvation. But that gift should, in turn, spur us into action. Our gratitude and praise should birth a desire in us to want to share God’s gift with others.
So even before Jesus appeared on earth, God was preparing us to follow Him. We read in Zechariah 7:9,
Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, "Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: And oppress not the widow, the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.”
Similarly, the New Testament charges believers to exemplify our Savior this way in Colossians 3:12, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering”.
One of my young family members and I were discussing this truth recently. He is a young husband and father who amazes me with the Christ-centered way he is leading his little family. Our talk started when we were both attending an event and someone we really did not know became drunk and belligerent.
My heart broke for this individual because we all have sinned and fallen short, and I was sure this young man would regret his actions the following day. So, instead of joining in the obvious and whispered judgment going on around us, I softly spoke the words of my broken heart to my family: “Isn’t it amazing that God loves us? It’s truly a miracle!”
And I meant it! How dare we judge others when we are all so flawed and feeble. Yet, the God of the universe had so much compassion for us that He sent His only begotten Son to save us – from ourselves and our sins. What miraculous, unmerited love!
Later that night, my nephew commented on my statement and sent me these powerful words about the love of Christ: “It truly is a miracle. But what I am bothered by is how a person who has been told about the Savior could go on in life without loving Him back.”
He went on to explain, “I was reading 1 Corinthians 15 just a minute ago … and verse 53 says that ‘this corruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility.’”
He was so right!
But I think that sometimes, as older, seasoned believers, we forget that being a Christian is more than an identity; it requires identifying and aligning ourselves with Christ. In essence, we must put on Christ. Because Jesus in us is our only hope, for ourselves and others. We must lose our own identity and live as Christ instructs us in every situation.
And to do so, to live like Jesus, requires action. We must be willing to act like Him as well – instead of merely judging or talking about those around us who are quite obviously not living for Him. Instead, we must be willing to put on His incorruptible nature so that we can serve, love, show mercy, and literally lay down our wants and desires in exchange for His.
Jesus did all of that – and more. He gave His own life for us, and “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
The truth is, we will probably never be required to die for someone else. Jesus already did that, once and for all. We actually have a much more complicated assignment: We must live for others.
Christianity is, after all, a verb. We must live it!