What Makes A Better Christian?
By: Bro. Ini Camitan
“I know I am a Christian but I don’t know what a Christian is.” This is an unspoken yet a very prevalent paradox in the Christian world of today. Many people claim they are Christian yet they seem to know less about being one. Neither do they know the real meaning of the term nor the practices and traits of a (true) Christian.
Christian(s) was first mentioned in the Bible in the book of Acts 11:26 pertaining to the group of disciples of Jesus Christ in Antioch (which is now known as Antakya in the furthermost southeast of Turkey). It was the time – for a whole year – when apostles Paul and Barnabas met with the Antioch church and taught a significant numbers of believers and followers. More emphatically in 1 Peter 4:16, being a Christian was associated with suffering and the boldness (of Christ’s followers) to bear the name of a Christian even during the time of great persecutions.
Perhaps, this has put many so-called Christians nowadays apart or at least distant from the genuine meaning of being a Christian. And so, the timely question is how to become a Christian just like the Christ’s disciples in the Antioch church? And a more relevant question is what will make us a better Christian in our time?
“Christ-likeness” is in the (true) Church
Christ-likeness is sometimes mistakenly interpreted as repeating what Christ literally had done on the cross. Many people in different parts of the world are trying to “re-enact” the crucifixion. Thus, performing self-inflicted violence, hanging on the cross and some are even on inverted cross, while others walk in the scorching heat of the concrete pavements and at the same time carrying a huge wooden cross on their shoulders. These acts should never be considered as a way to be like Christ for Christ’s great suffering was done once and for all mankind.
To be Christ-like is simply to be in Christ which can be achieved by having faith in Him and being baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27). In Colossians 1:18, it is stated that the body of Christ is but the church whose head is no other than Christ himself. Therefore, Christians have to be in the body of Christ in the same way the first Christians were in the Church – a group of disciples taught under the ministration of the apostles of Christ. For disciples to be called Christians (as it was before), it is imperative that he or she must belong to a Church where each one is a part of and in which God has appointed firstly apostle (1 Corinthians 12:27-28) to administer the Christian faith. In other words, Christians will become Christ-like only if they are in (the body of) Christ; and that the Christ-likeness can only be found in the Church with a living apostle sent by God.
Imitating Christ’s humility is becoming a better Christian
To imitate Christ is not to re-do His crucifixion or does not point to “reincarnating” self to be Christ in physical sense. Instead, it has to do with having the same love and compassion of Christ, having a unified spirit and purpose, doing things in humility, and considering others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:2-8). It is when we let others to be ahead of us as well as humbling ourselves for the interest of others just as Christ who, being in very nature of God did not consider equality with God but humbled Himself and became obedient (Philippians 2:-6-8) for the sake of salvation of mankind. It is when we treat and respect others to be better than us, in one aspect or another; this is what makes us an imitator of Christ.
What makes a better Christian, in no way, does mean becoming “holier than holy” for no one is holy except God. We, as Christians, were justified and sanctified only by virtue of death and resurrection of Christ. What makes us a better Christian is by becoming more humble and obedient disciple or follower. Christ followed the Father, and Paul followed Christ, Timothy followed Paul, and the church members follow the Apostles and the companion of the apostles, and so is the (true) church of today. Thus, the way to be a better Christian is to imitate Christ’s humility towards a sincere obedience of God’s will through His sent ones.
Being a better Christian is being ready to lose prestige in exchange of service to God. Also, it does not speak about who’s better than who, for no one is better at all than others; rather, it speaks about making oneself better in the eyes of Lord God. It is a process of becoming justified with humility without other’s being humiliated; it is becoming righteous without being self-righteous.
Growing together makes us a better Christian
One can hardly imagine growing alone in a man’s land because no one is living solely for himself. It stresses the need for others, more so for considering others or respecting brethren’s interest above oneself.
There is a principle of “zero-sum game” (which teaches that when one becomes better-off, the other becomes worst-off) which is not true and does not exist among Christians. This principle – which suggests that one wins and other loses; and in some cases, such winning is at the expense of others – should never happen among Christians and the members of the Church, for each one is growing with the rest, and that the weakest amongst them is a burden of all.
Every Christian who’s in Christ is always treating others to be greater than self and accede to that he or she can only be as good as the weak, if not the weakest. And by letting others to be ahead does not mean one has to be left out; it is when one considers others to grow with will certainly make him or her better and eventually leads them to grow better altogether.
Growing with others (in the Church) with “no-bitter” surely makes us better. Christian life, after all, is not meant to be secluded or alone but it requires fellowship with others; being a Christian is not entirely difficult but it is a must to go through sacrifices and hardships at times (to enter the kingdom of God, Acts 14:22) for in the end it will help us to become better and better.