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Are you a true Christian? How can you know?

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April 18, 2018

Are You a True Christian? How Can You Know?

Some people are attracted to Christianity because they want God to bless their lives whether in terms of money, cars, houses, health, grades, reputation, or careers. Some push this ideology so far that it becomes the core of their theology. This notion is called the Prosperity Gospel. This leads to ask the following: what is Christianity all about? Is this how Christ lived? Did Christ promote richness and health? If so, how can we explain the other “blessed” people from other religions, including atheists? This Prosperity Gospel is far from being what Christ lived and preached. Therefore, how can we identify true Christianity? Who is a true Christian? The one question that is important to be answered is: what is the main quality that will differentiate a true Christian from everyone else?

The reality is that every earthly-minded person is running after some sort of power, or authority. This is expressed in their deep desires to become CEO’s, or just climb up the “success” ladder. Although the objective is not corrupt in itself, as a person can simply be honest in his work, then success simply follows. The problem is found in the intention of the person. The person can run after money, career, authority, etc., but this lust for earthly desires is not found in the life of Christ. Essentially, we find quite the opposite. For instance, when Christ was on His way to Jerusalem, He went into a village of the Samaritans and the outcome was that the people rejected Him. The reaction of His disciples James and John was: “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them…” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” The Son of God’s reaction was to respond to their evil with good. Another example is when Christ was being arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. St. Peter thought with an earthly mindset, as we often do, so he cut the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest. However, Christ had different plans: He stretched His hand and healed the servant’s ear. Why doesn’t God show His power and authority? Well that is what He responds: “I am showing my power, but my power is not what you expect it to be. My Power is seen in love, not authority. My authority is there, but I am willing to empty myself of it for the greater cause.” During His Passion, the Son of God was struck, mocked, spat upon, and crucified. They ridiculed Him. Then, while hanging on the cross, He was told: “If you are the Son of God come down from the cross and we will believe…” And His response was unbelievable. In the greatest time of His human weakness, God’s true power is made apparent for the world to see. He responded the following: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do!” It becomes quite obvious that God’s message is contrary to the world’s. While the world walks after earthly authority, Christians walk after love. This is precisely why St. Paul would say: “For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” For the world, the message of the cross is foolishness because they think it means weakness and death, yet to us who are being saved, it means life and sharing this life through the power of love. Christians today, struggle between these two conflicting mindsets: worldly authority on the one hand, and love for others on the other. A true Christian that wants to walk in the footsteps of His Master ought to choose the latter.

Now, what does it mean to love? Does it mean to be nice to people? Well, that’s definitely part of it, but love extends beyond just being nice. Christian Love is characterized by two necessary qualities that we will quickly extract through the parable of the Samaritan. Christ counted this parable as a response to a lawyer who was asking him, “Who is my neighbour that I should love him?” Christ started with the parable mentioning a certain man that went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves. The thieves stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and left him half dead. These thieves, here, represent the earthly-minded people that are ready to cause suffering to others for their own gain. Now let us compare those thieves with the Samaritan. The Samaritan does not know the man, but the Bible says, “He had compassion.” He therefore started bandaging his wounds, pouring oil and wine on the wounds, set him on his animal, and brought him to a hotel. On the next day, he gave the innkeeper two denarii and told him whatever else you spend; I will reimburse it to you. The two love qualities spoken of earlier are emphasized in this parable. The first one is seen when the Samaritan bandaged the wounds. This man was travelling; he potentially had business to attend to, or more importantly a wife and family that he was eagerly rushing to reunite with. He was travelling for a purpose, but this man was there lying on the ground and he couldn’t leave him. The Samaritan sacrificed the most precious commodity, which is his time. Then he poured his oil and wine. Both of those ingredients are used for food and drink. He sat him on his animal, which meant a loss of comfort. Moreover, he paid the innkeeper. We thus see that the Samaritan suffered a loss of time, a loss of food and drink, a loss of comfort by sitting the man on his animal, and a loss of money. To be able to love someone, one ought to be ready to suffer loss. When I suffer loss, another person gains. This is the first principal quality of love. While the world seeks authority, money, and power, a true Christian suffers loss, so that others may gain. Life is no more about me, but about others. I choose to become a servant to others rather than to rule over them. This is precisely what Christ did through His incarnation, suffering, and crucifixion. He indeed has emphasized this principle in the washing of His disciples’ feet the night before His crucifixion and asked them to do likewise.

The second quality is found in the commitment the Samaritan had toward the dying man: how he gave money to the innkeeper, and the next day, gave him two more denarii and promised to pay him if more was needed. This commitment is essential to love. It is very easy to abandon someone, to give up on a marriage, or a friend. It is easy to quit a service, or leave a church because someone bothered you. It is easy, but it is not love. Love suffers long; love bears all things, and endures all things as St. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 13. More importantly, can we imagine God deciding to give up on us? To let us live in our corruption? To let us die? It is impossible because His love is unconditional. That is why St. Paul says: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Although we were sinners and therefore undeserving of love, God still loved us because He is committed to us. His love is unconditional. In the second portion of the verse, it says that Christ died for us. He suffered loss on our behalf. He died, so we may live. He made the great exchange. In this little verse, we once again find these two principal

characteristics that define love. This is precisely the sacrificial love that is being poured out between the hypostases of the One Trinitarian God. This love is God’s identity and therefore it needs to become part of our own nature as Christians.

Unfortunately, one of the main reasons secularism is propagating in the world is that Christians are not doing their job properly. Our light needs to shine brighter. The world needs to taste Christ’s Love. St. Augustine says: “You are a Christian. You carry the cross of Christ on your forehead. The mark stamped on you teaches you what you should profess. He was hanging on the cross, which you carry on your forehead… When He was hanging on the cross, He was looking around at the people raving against him, putting up with their insults and praying for his enemies. While they were killing him, the doctor was curing the sick with His blood. He said, ―Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing. These words were not futile, or without effect. Later, thousands of those people believed in the one they murdered, so that they learned how to suffer for Him who had suffered for them and at their hands…” In brief, St. Augustine is saying that through Christ’s love on the cross, He won over many people to Him. We need to walk in the footsteps of Christ. Let us not run after power and authority. Let us run after love and service.

Remember know your faith, live your faith and teach your faith and glory be to God forever, Amen.

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