I often get invited to speak at churches, mission organisations and other Christian gatherings. People who know my stance on gay marriage sometimes protest against my involvement, writing me off as a heretic before they’ve even heard what I have to say and most often without taking the time to study my theology (easily available via videos and blogs). The worst detractors go on a smear campaign against me, claiming I am a “false prophet” and even worse things. They do this, of course, without ever attempting to contact me or engage with me.
So, just in case there’s any confusion or doubt, I want to be very clear: I am a Christian. In fact, I am a Bible-believing, evangelical Christian. I don’t really like that term these days, as the Christian right in America has co-opted “evangelical” as a label that now stands for a political and social view I don’t want to align to. But “evangelical” is technically applied to someone who believes that the Bible is God’s Word and the standard for our faith and practice, and that we should take Jesus and His words seriously and share Him with others. And I definitely believe that.
I am definitely a Christian.
You don’t have to take my word for it.
The Bible gives us only four ways by which we can truly judge someone’s salvation and devotion to Christ, and you’re welcome to use any and all of these to judge me. Just because we may differ on a few issues of interpretation does not give anyone the right to call my salvation or my commitment to Christ or my commitment to His Word into question. To do so, would be, quite ironically, totally non-Biblical.
Four Ways to Know If I Am a Christian
1. Romans 10:9: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
I declare this, without reservation. I am saved.
2. 2 Timothy 3:14: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it…”
This verse leads into the famous 2 Tim. 3:16 which talks of Scripture being God’s Word and useful for us. It tells us that there is a received orthodoxy and tradition that we should stand in. It doesn’t say that our beliefs and understanding of God will not grow and develop over time – in fact, Jesus quite specifically told us that the role of the Holy Spirit is exactly the opposite: He will continue, over decades, generations and centuries to grow in our faith and knowledge of God.
But over the centuries of church history, the best and brightest of our spiritual elders have codified all the core beliefs of the Bible into Creeds. There are a variety that have stood the test of time, and each one has a richness and depth of meaning. My favourite is the Apostle’s Creed. I stand by every word of every line of this creed:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from there he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the church universal (or “the holy catholic church”),
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
I could choose almost any of the ancient creeds, such as the Nicene creed which I really like, and affirm each and every line. I am a Christian because I firmly believe the core truths that have been handed down over centuries.
3. Matthew 7: “By their fruit you shall know them.”
Although Matthew 7 opens with a command to not judge others, it then gives us a single criteria by which we can judge others: by the fruit of their lives.
There was a time when Paul felt he had to justify himself to his followers, and began listing his credentials. Half way through he says, “I must be crazy to be doing this.” I am not Paul, nor am I a special messenger of God, so I am not going to even start.
I would also very quickly say that I am a sinner saved by grace. I am not perfect. I have made, and will continue to make mistakes. But, without tempting fate and without boasting (lest I should fall again), I would welcome anyone to judge me by the fruit of my life and ministry. I believe that the lives I’ve touched, the people I have actually ministered to and worked with, and the people who know me personally, will all testify to the impact that my work and life has had on them and on others. I am not looking for references or character witnesses, but I think you’d battle to find anyone who knows me who would say a bad thing about me at all. (Except, possibly, a few of the leaders at churches I worked at – leaders who never liked what I was trying to do in the churches they led.)
4. John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
I was not always loving. As a 20-something youth pastor and church consultant I was arrogant (I thought “self-assured” at the time) and cocky (I thought “right about my beliefs” at the time). I’ve changed, and mellowed. It’s not just age – God has worked in my heart, and helped me to realise the truth of that African proverb that says: “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.” I have not always been right about my beliefs (I still continue to learn and grow now), but I was definitely “going alone” because of a lack of grace and love.
Now my goal is to walk with others. Not ahead of them, but alongside them. Yes, sometimes prodding, sometimes nudging, sometimes provoking. But journeying together, with grace and love. I have also pledged to walk the journey with those who feel excluded from God’s community, because God’s love extends to them too.
That doesn’t mean that I only speak “nice words”. I am known to be direct, forceful and even sometimes sarcastic (as a tool to get attention), but I attempt to only ever use these tools as a last resort when engaging with the “blind guides” and “white washed tomb” leaders of the traditional, ultra conservative church that I have escaped from. Jesus used harsh words a few times in his ministry (as did Paul and Peter) and on all occasions these were directed at the leaders of the religious institutions that were getting in the way of peoples’ relationship with God. I stand for justice, and will shout loudly when I see injustice. I believe this to be congruent with a life that seeks to live out the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I believe that, in the end, love wins. I believe that, in the end, God’s love wins. And I believe that God’s deep, rich, abiding love is abundantly and extravagantly given out to all of Creation. Love is not what God DOES, love is who God IS.
I try as much as possible to be loving and gracious in my interactions with others. Where I fail in this, I would welcome correction and covet your grace. But I hope that if you shine your holy spotlight in my direction you would see love. And because you see love in me, you’d see Jesus. And that you would know that I am one of his disciples.
I am a Christian
We may not agree on everything. And specifically you might think I am wrong about gay marriage and God’s love of the LGBTI people He created. But please don’t ever doubt that I AM A CHRISTIAN. An evangelical Christian. An orthodox Christian by every definition that church history has used to define what is orthodox and not. You might not agree with me, but I think you’ll find you’re on shaky ground if you want to judge me as anything other than what I claim to be. It should at least give you pause for thought.
I am a Christian, and a faithful follower of Jesus the Christ.
Now, if you want to chat about gay marriage that can easily be arranged…