What’s Christian about Christian? Has the name hurt the gospel? Can art be Christian? Can music be Christian? Can anything that’s not a person be Christian?
If someone asks if you are a Christian, do you find it difficult to give a simple answer? In some cases I’d rather say no than yes. The problem that occurs when someone asks if you are a Christian is that, if you say yes, you don’t know what you’re saying yes to. You really have to ask a question back. A good response to that question might be: “That depends on what you think a Christian is.” Or even better, it might be good to ask a question back: “What is a Christian?” I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus would do.
Jesus was always answering questions with questions. When Peter asked Him, point blank, if He was the Messiah, Jesus answered with: “Who do others say I am?” and then: “Who do you say I am?” He never answered the question; He made Peter answer it.
You cannot make assumptions about people’s words; you have to find out what the meaning is behind the words, and even more importantly, what is in their hearts. The Pharisees were constantly trying to trap Jesus, so He almost always refused to answer their questions. He knew their hearts. He knew they didn’t want the answer — they were only trying to trap Him — so He would often ask them a revealing question back, basically showed them He was smarter at this game than they were. And if they wouldn’t answer His question, He would refuse, in like manner, to answer their original question on the grounds that they wouldn’t answer His! That’s how Jesus would handle people He didn’t trust.
For a while there, we Christians were so excited about our popularity in the world that we would take whatever they gave us as the truth. Any mention of Christians in the media was a gain for us. That was very foolish on our part.
In a most insightful passage in the gospel of John, John reports: “many people saw the signs He [Jesus] was performing and believed in His name. But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for He knew what was in each person” (John 2:23-25 NIV).
Jesus was suspicious of His own popularity. He didn’t trust it because He knew the people’s hearts were fickle.
Christians are on the back side of our “fifteen minutes of fame,” and whatever is left over in people’s minds is most likely way off track and not to be trusted. We need to learn not to take anyone’s word for it when they talk about Christians and Christianity. We need to get better at asking questions than giving answers. Our answers are most likely going to be misunderstood if we don’t know what is in people’s hearts and minds. We aren’t as smart as Jesus. We can’t read people like He could. We have to ask them what they are thinking, or what they mean.
Take the indie rock band, The Choir, as a case in point. (I almost wrote “Christian” indie rock band, but can a band be Christian?) They have been writing, recording and performing in the “Christian” music world for 30 years, yet they would not say their music is Christian, nor would they say they are ministers on a ministry. They would say they are artists and their job is to thoughtfully entertain. That is how they would like to be known, but it has been hard for them to live out that model in an arena filled with assumptions.
I bet if you ask them individually if they are Christians, you might not get a straight answer. They would probably want to know what you mean by Christian. And that would be a good question.
Don’t miss our live interview with Steve Hindalong on BlogTalkRadio tonight at 6pm Pacific. Steve is drummer and lyricist for The Choir and author of the well-known worship song, “God of Wonders.”