In a recent blog post I made the case that, contrary to some extreme Evangelical positions, Barack Obama is not the AntiChrist. You can read the original post here:
Quick summation: The President has publicly claimed that he is a Christian. The Bible makes the point that the antichrist will be self-promoting and deny that Jesus is the Christ. The end result is that, while people may be unhappy with the president and his policies, we are in no position to judge his faith.
What really got me was one of the comments someone left on that post. Someone asked:
How can a real Christian support abortion?
The question really made me stop and realize that this country needs to have an honest conversation about what makes a Christian. No, not just about what makes a Christian—about what makes a REAL Christian. It seems that some people have a belief that there is a difference between a real Christian and a fake Christian and that it is possible to discern the difference based on the political and/or ethical positions one does or does not support.
So what makes a Christian?
The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8-9:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Simply put, it is our faith in Jesus Christ that restores us to right relationship with God (that’s what Evangelicals mean when we say “saved”). Left to ourselves we end up breaking our connection to Him. Our faith in Jesus restores that relationship. What makes a Christian? Someone who has faith that Jesus is the Christ (the anointed one).
For millennia the Christian Church has held to the Apostles’ Creed, the set of beliefs that unifies Christians regardless of denominational differences. The Creed contains the “biggies” that unite us despite our differences. The Creed states:
I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Under Pontius Pilate, He was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Did you see it? The part in there about real Christians vs. fake Christians and politics and ethics? No?
That’s because it’s not there. It’s not in the Bible. It’s not in the Church’s historic Creeds. Salvation is God’s gift of grace through our faith – it’s not something that can be earned by doing the right things or by avoiding the wrong things.
Dang. This means that salvation is much broader than we would like it to be! This means that we can’t throw derogatory labels on others simply because they hold to positions that we think are wrong.
Don’t misunderstand me – I personally believe that life (inside or outside the womb) is precious and should not be taken lightly. I don’t favor abortions. At the same time, we should be highly uncomfortable labeling someone as a fake Christian simply because we disagree with them on matters of politics or ethics.
Good Christians with good intentions can still disagree with each other. We get too caught up on what a real Christian looks like that we stop acting like Christ towards those with whom we disagree! Even in disagreement we can remain civil and behave decently towards each other.
C.S. Lewis once wrote that it is not possible for us to look at another Christian and judge their faith based on their behavior. At the MOST all we can say is that we don’t believe their behavior aligns with that which we consider to be Christian behavior. We give in to un-Christian impulses when we say, “Real Christians don’t support….” It’s not about ethical positions.
Because in the end the only position that has eternal consequence is our position before the cross.