What it means to be a Christian
Here’s a story from the first few centuries of Christianity. A certain Christian called Lot went to Joseph and said “Abba (meaning learned father or elder), as far as I can I keep a moderate rule, with a little fasting, and prayer, and meditation, and quiet: and as far as I can I try to cleanse my heart of evil thoughts. What else should I do? Then Joseph, the hermit stood up and spread out his hands to heaven, and his fingers shone like ten flames of fire and he said, “If you will, you can become all flame.”
Being a Christian is a way of life in which we become more and more like God – such that we can become ‘all flame.’ It is not so much our spiritual practices themselves that are important but the reason we do them – to imitate, or to follow Jesus and so grow as disciples – always learning (in the original meaning of the word, disciple). Many Christians like Lot develop a ‘rule of life’ which describes how they want to live their lives under God at any one time. Some or all of the following spiritual practices are incorporated.
Regular Worship with a Christian Community
If you take a coal out of a fire it tends to quickly lose its heat and flame. Put it back in and it will burn again. There are almost as many ways to worship God as there are Christian communities. The important thing is to have times where we can deliberately and together give thanks, say sorry, be encouraged and challenged, make real in the present all that God has done for us in the past and anticipate our glorious future.
Reading, studying and meditating on the Bible
Prolonged interaction with the Bible, which Christians understand as the ‘Word of God’ shapes our lives. It is a complex task but we are blessed with a huge range of resources these days for understanding and putting in to practice the message of the Bible. We can do this on our own and in small groups.
Prayer helps us to learn how to ‘pay attention’ to what God is doing – in our own lives, the lives of others and in the world around us. Again there are lots of ways to pray and many resources available to help us. A daily practice is most helpful, remembering that ‘we pray as we can, not as we can’t.’
Neighbour love and hospitality
Love of the neighbour is not exclusive to Christians, but the teaching of Jesus is that our neighbours can include our enemies whom we are called to love (a most difficult task in a world prone to violence!). A good way to start is to discover how to both receive from and give hospitality to others who are different from ourselves. In the Gospels Jesus, it seems was always being invited, inviting himself or inviting others to sit down and eat. He eats with strangers – and more often than not ‘dodgy’ strangers!
Gifts, Money and possessions
Money is mentioned a lot in the Gospels. Being a Christian means re-negotiating our relationship with money and possessions. They take their proper place in our lives as gift. When we give them away we say ‘all things come from you, O, Lord, and of your own do we give you.’
Being a ‘public’ Christian
Christianity isn’t a private faith – it has public and therefore political implications. Jesus was killed by the powers that be, but they could not keep him dead. Christians are asked to share their faith, as best they can whenever called upon. In addition we can join with others, who come alongside us (even if they don’t believe as we do) to work for ‘common good’ of all in a just society.