Every once in a while you hear that saying: “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
Usually, I just take note of it and then go on my merry little way. But today, I really started thinking about it: What would it take to convict a person of Christianity?
Of course, you have the obvious stuff: Church attendance, a clean lifestyle, Bibles on the bookshelves, etc. But do these things automatically prove you are a Christian?
“Dressing” the part does not make you what you seem: I can dress like a doctor, complete with a stethoscope and a white lab coat. I can talk the talk, using medical jargon and carry around a clipboard and pen. I know what doctors look like, and I can so easily make myself look just like them, and people would see me and automatically think that I’m a real doctor.
But in reality, I am not. I would be nothing but a phony who only looks the part.
So, what makes the doctor a real doctor? His or her actual education and willingness to live by the tenets of the job: Do no harm. If you have neither the proper education nor the willingness to live by the tenets, you cannot be a doctor no matter how well you play the role.
Christianity can be the same way. Of course, I realize that none of us are perfect people, but I’m not talking about being a perfect Christian, I’m talking about being a real Christian. There is a difference: Being an imperfect Christian simply means you’re a sinner, just like everyone else. But being a real Christian means striving to live according to the tenets of faith that Jesus Christ taught. Yes, our sinful nature can get in the way of our living the faith, but that doesn’t mean we are failures at living the faith; it just means we are failures at being perfect.
Simply looking the part of a real Christian will not save you in the End. Jesus Himself tells us that :
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven. Many will tell me in that day ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?’ Then I will tell them ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity’.” (Matthew 7:21-23, World English Bible).
Clearly, simply playing the part does not fool anyone, especially Jesus. After speaking the above words Jesus continued on, saying:
“Everyone therefore, who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell — and great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27, World English Bible)
Of course, this doesn’t negate the performance of doing works, but it does mean there are more than outward appearances (such as good works) that prove one to be a true Christian. Note that Jesus said that those who hear His words and actually lives by are the wise ones. What exactly does this mean?
Jesus Christ showed it was required to put mercy ahead of Theocratic Law by pointing out that respect for life should come foremost, regardless of Law (Matthew 12:11). He mercifully overrode the Sabbath Laws when he healed people on the Sabbath day (Matthew 12:9-13; Luke 14:1-6); even though the breaking of the Sabbath Law could easily result in the death penalty (Numbers 15:32). He also overrode the adultery Law when he showed mercy to an adulteress (John 8:1-11), even though the sin of adultery was also supposed to result in the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10-12). On another occasion He mercifully healed a bleeding woman with only one touch, even though the Law stated that such a woman was unclean and untouchable (Mark 5:25-34, compared with Leviticus 15:25-27). On yet another occasion, He mercifully healed the daughter of a foreign woman even though it wasn’t His responsibility to do so (Matthew 15:22-28). You know that Jesus didn’t sin in doing these things because the Bible clearly tells us that Jesus never sinned (1 Peter 2:22). In essence, Jesus was teaching us that mercy is not a sin – in fact, Jesus even rebuked the Pharisees for inflexibly putting Theocratic Law over mercy (Matthew 23:23).
Remember, God is a merciful God (Psalms 103:8; Ephesians 2:4), and God is LOVE (1 John 4:8). And when it comes to Theocratic Law, love is the Law’s fulfillment (Matthew 22:36-40). This is why Jesus made it clear that God wants mercy to override Law (Matthew 9:12-13). God is so serious about this that those who do not show mercy will, in return, not be shown mercy in the Kingdom judgment (James 2:13), whereas those who do show mercy will be shown mercy (Matthew 5:7). THAT is how important mercy is in God’s eyes.
How can we show mercy? The same way Jesus did: Don’t shun the “untouchables” of society. Aside from your usual charitable donations, do you continue to show mercy to others? Are you willing to step out of your “comfort zone” to help someone in need regardless of their station in life? Visit your enemy when he or she is sick, take the beaten prostitute to the hospital, and offer a free meal to the homeless drunk. We are not better than any of them, we are not entitled to withhold mercy from them. For that matter, Jesus Christ Himself was better than any of us, and even He didn’t withhold mercy!
And mercy is not the only mark of a real Christian: There is also unconditional love. Unconditional love is best described at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (World English Bible):
Love is patient and kind, love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud, doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek it’s own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil, doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
Obviously, unconditional love is a tall order to fill, but don’t let your own failures knock you down. A real Christian continues to do his or her best every day, even if it isn’t a perfect best. And yes, this is a tough assignment — we all bumble through it no matter how sincere we are; but the point is that we make a heartfelt effort to continually offer mercy and love to all. Basically, if we want God to offer us mercy and unconditional love then we must also offer it to others. That was the point of the parables of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37 ) and the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35).
So, going back to the original question: If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?