I have heard too often the word “Christian” being used as an adjective or adverb. “Oh that person is acting so Christian!” “We are a Christian nation founded upon Christian principals!” I am not sure that adjectives or adverbs fit with the word “Christian.” “That person is such a good Christian!” “That person is a real Christian!” “We are a Christian institution!” These are theological statements about who we are and who God is that I think miss the mark.
Being a Christian is about having a relationship with Jesus, not about being a good person or acting nice or about our behavior. A Christian experiences themselves as being a forgiven sinner, recognizing that no one is good but God.
We celebrate the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence on July 4th (By the way, many who signed the Declaration were Deists.). We should not confuse those with values that are exclusively Christian. Many religions believe that we are created by the one God. Many people from a variety of religions practice their faith and like all human beings, behave well and behave poorly. We along with the apostle Paul can confess that though we know what we ought to do and what we ought not to do, we too often choose poorly (To quote from the movie “Indian Jones and The Last Crusade”).
We speak improperly even when we profess that a church of Christians is a Christian institution, for the church, as history and the present reveals, is an institution made up of sinners and saints. Each person is made up of sinner and saint, and Church institutions have been known to be destructive as well as creative.
I hear people say, we should return to having prayer in schools, as if that made a difference when I prayed as a child of the sixties in a white’s only school while people of a different race prayed in their dilapidated schools. Did that make a difference when in 1863, a bishop stood in the pulpit of Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Savannah praying that slaves would understand they should remain slaves? Did prayer in schools or Congress prevent the Trail of Tears which began in North Georgia where I lived and ended up in Oklahoma where my family is from? Did prayer in schools and in Congress help the American citizens of Japanese descent who were imprisoned by the U.S. government just up the road from Casper?
The USA has been and is and will be a great nation made up of people who are both saint and sinner and from many backgrounds, striving to be better to form a more perfect union. Some behave better than others.
Christians would be wise to pray the sinner’s prayer every day in their private prayer closet. “Lord have mercy on me a sinner!” Then live in joyful relationship with God knowing we are loved by God and forgiven by God and will be forgiven by God. Loving our neighbors as ourselves would be choosing wisely as well.
For what it’s worth.
“For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face.” I Corinthians 13.12 KJV. Rev. Shumard is priest in charge of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Casper. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.