[Word count: 561. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you— unless indeed you fail the test.” —2 Corinthians 13:3-5
Remember when I told my mom I wasn’t going to church or looking for a new one, and she asked, “Are you still a Christian?” I was annoyed at the question, but I need to revisit it. My adopted grandma says, “You don’t have to go to my church, but you do have to go to my god.” So I ask: Have I gone to God recently? Is my heart still there? Is there a Google Maps app that can tell you how far away you are from God? (First person to say The Bible gets punched in the face.)
From what I told you I believe, things get cold sometimes. Things get dry. But the relationship is not dead. Living things have been frozen solid, but cold does not mean dead. Anyone who didn’t know my background might look at my relationship… frosted, unmoving, and deathly still… and deduce with good reason that it is dead.
If my mom sees someone call themselves a Christian while living below the expected standard, she’ll say, “But they’re not a real Christian though.” Ma might snatch that membership card away quick if you don’t pay your dues.
But it’s not about looking like a “real Christian.” I know how to look like that. A couple strategic appearances at church, a perfectly-timed emotional outburst sometime during altar call, some familiar spiritual jargon, and I’m ready for my closeup.
But look even closer. I wanna know if you asked Jesus about me, he’d say, “Mark? He’s an inactive member, but he’s still on the roster.” Or if I stood before him today, would he say “depart from me, I never knew you… you worker of iniquity”? But didn’t God call us friends? Are we the kind of friends who can not talk for months and still pick up where we left off?
I don’t regularly read the Bible anymore. I pray when life prompts it. I do not fast. I do not meditate. I am a Christmas tree with little to no trimming—like that sad-looking Charlie Brown one. So then, am I a Christmas tree at all? At what point do I become just a regular old fir?
Liken it to a female breast cancer survivor who wants to reaffirm her femininity even after chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. Losing her breasts and hair doesn’t suddenly make her a man. You can even remove her womb and she will still be a woman, right down to her XX chromosomes.
So I wonder—down where it really matters—what makes a Christian really a Christian? Where does that belief have to be planted so that even when you strip away every identifying marker, people can still tell… God can tell… I can tell? (Asking for a friend.)
“Lord I believe in you
I’ll always believe in you
Though I can’t see you with my eyes
Deep in my heart, your presence I find
Lord I believe in you
And I’ll keep my trust in you
Let the whole world say what they may
No one can take this joy away
Lord, I believe.”
—Crystal Lewis, “Lord, I Believe In You”