Professing to be a Christian in the 21st century means different things. The confusion comes from the expectations of the hearer. The statement, “I am a Christian” could be a political, cultural or personal statement. Let’s take a look at each.
The use of Christian conservative values is widely used in our political debates to gather the votes of a significant percentage of our population identifying themselves as Christian. The campaign rhetoric and behavior of candidates do not mirror the values supposedly followed by a “Christian.” Our politicians seem to be able to talk the talk but not walk the walk. In her article, “The Cure for Election Madness,” Amy E. Black suggests, “Imagine the possibilities if Christians actually modeled Christlike behavior in the political arena. Certainly there would be a great deal more civility in our political debates.”
Were you born Christian? For many of us that is our claim to a religious preference. These are what we call cultural Christians. Many of us grew up in religious households where church attendance and prayers before meals were customary. We observed Christian rituals on holidays and came to understand the basic concepts of Christianity. Unfortunately, we never personalized our relationship with God and made it the bases of our choices. We expressed our faith and belief in God but rarely connected it to our actions.
Our final general category is those who take their Christian moniker seriously. People who go beyond the basic concepts of understanding their Christian values but, in fact, change their choices and behaviors to be in line with what they believe. They decide to model their beliefs rather than just discuss them. They genuinely reflect on new information and understand that knowing should lead to doing and that knowing is not enough.
I work with many alcoholics and addicts. Those who are successful at recovery understand that knowledge isn’t enough. Pursuing the God of their understanding is their starting place. They learn spiritual principles and practice those principles in all of their affairs. They don’t always claim to be Christian but their behavior is Christlike. This creates a dilemma for those who are participants in organized religious circles where the words are often more important than the practice. The reverse seems to be true in 12 step recovery, the practice is more important than the words.
I know many Christians, and I know many 12 steppers. I would rather be associated with a non-Christian 12-stepper who demonstrates Christlike behavior than a professing Christian who doesn’t.
That might sound like sacrilege coming from a Christian pastor but maybe it’s time for “show and tell” rather than “tell and fail.”
Life is too hard to do alone, let’s do it together.