Keeping the Faith

The Faith Test

Are you married?

Relationships are complex arrangements but they are also definitive. You’re either married, or you’re not. You’re a mother, or you’re not. You’re a brother, or you’re not.  I guess some things really are still black and white.

If I were to ask if you were married, I wouldn’t expect you to humm and harr before offering:  “I’m not sure…”, “maybe…”, “I was a long time ago…” or “it depends…”  You would fire back an answer within a few seconds – perhaps with a qualifier or two – but a definitive answer all the same.

Yet here’s a relationship question that still provokes greyscale answers: Are you a Christian?

It’s not a trick question. ‘Christian’ simply means follower of Christ; one who has a relationship with Jesus. Like any ‘earthly’ relationship, there are complexities – doubts, times of intimacy or distance, conflict and confusion. These are part of any relationship, part of testing it and making it stronger, yet when asked THAT question, it’s not uncommon for the response to be, “I’m not sure…”, “maybe…”, “I was a long time ago…” or “it depends…”

I’ve just done The Alpha Course, which is touted as “an opportunity to explore the meaning of life”. UK course presenter Jamie Haith added this to the discussion, “Being born in a Christian country or family doesn’t make you a Christian any more than being born in McDonald’s makes you a Big Mac Hamburger!”

Deep. So what does make one a Christian?  Haith points out that there are three prongs in proving any relationship – earthly or otherwise:

The event.
The material evidence.
The experience.

I am married and the proof stands in the event of my marriage on January 10, 2004, the material evidence of my Marriage Certificate and the experience of 10 years living in partnership with my husband.

You can’t argue with that.  Ditto for Christianity.

The event was Jesus’ death and resurrection – paired with our personal choice to believe and receive His forgiveness.  The material evidence is the Bible, the Word of God, which provides a plumbline and a sounding board for our changeable whims.  And the experience is the transformation that can only come from a life lived faithfully, radiating the character of Jesus and the relationship we cultivate with Him.

There’s no room for greyscale here – it’s a deadly serious matter, one that Paul, the writer of 2 Corinthians, stressed when he said, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realise that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you failed the test.” (13:5)

holman-hunt-light-of-the-worldThe event, the evidence and the experience. Test yourself.

In 1853, William Holman Hunt painted an allegorical depiction of Jesus now known widely as The Light of the World. The oil on canvas portrays Jesus holding a lamp in his left hand, knocking on an overgrown and long unopened door. His disposition is alert but not aggressive, patient but not pushy. He’s not about to break the door down, that’s for sure.

Hunt’s painting is based on Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

Perhaps the most telling feature of the pre-Raphaelite painting is in what has been omitted; there is no handle on the door’s outside. The door can only be opened from within.

Are you a Christian?

Before you offer an, “I’m not sure…”, “maybe…”, “I was a long time ago…” or “it depends…” – remember that the door handle’s on your side.  Jesus will never force His way into your life.

First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday May 12, 2014.

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2 Comments

  1. Neil C says

    Hi Claire 🙂 No !! I am definitely NOT a Christian. I do not believe that there is a Jeebers, Allen, other deities, or even a soul within me……….. To me, there is no door. Perhaps that a bit Matrix-y sounding, but hey.
    Errrrm, my original (before I got distracted by replying to some of your other contributors) purpose for dropping in today was……. to just tell ya that I would like to offer y’all my best wishes for the health and happiness of CVR Junior (version 2.0) and the Mummy person involved in that equation too. I think I said to ya last year when you were tryin’ with out luck, that I thought 2014 would be a goer for ya !!
    Hooray For Everything !!
    Just watch out though, baby number 2 is often the real body alterer :0
    On the plus side, if you are able and lucky enough to recover to yer regular glamour magazine form from number 2, then number three will most likely not make many dints nor alterations.
    To sum up, I am sure your baby will grow up surrounded by the constant loving attention that truly makes a childhood magical. As a total atheist…… I can rest easy knowing that even though you will “infect” little Version 2.0 with the religion virus, that the “treatment” within the VR household will more than make up for the ravages of said ancient and persistent virus. Teehee 😉
    Have fun Mummy V2.0, may your lives all bubble over with family warmth, love and that unique brand of silliness and unforgettable joy/amazement that babyface#2 brings. Cheerio then Claire, from your awful critic, Neil. xo

    • Haha! Thanks Neil – certainly is an exciting time, one not without trepidation. Who knows what kind of kid this is in my belly (will they sleep? will they feed ok? will they have a placid temperament? and so on!!) – but I know God will give me the tools to be the right mum to him or her 😉

      Thanks for your lovely well-wishes, even if they are atheist branded 😉 Haha! I believe in that verse that says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from God” (James 1:17) – so maybe you’ll entertain the thought that you’re a vessel of God even if you didn’t intend it that way!

      Bless you Neil!

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