Who Is a Christian?
Well, no, I don't know that, and nobody else does. Maybe he is a real Christian. The Lord knows those that are his, and in the parable of the wheat and the tares, it's clear that we can't root up the tares, because we'll root up the wheat with them. The smoking wick gives forth sooty smoke, and no light, but the Lord doesn't quench it. Today the guy is a fool, showing no evidence of the fruit of God's spirit, being a dishonest reviler and somehow convinced that such conduct makes him more persuasive. But how do I know what glory may rest upon him in ten years?
The proverb says that to those who rebuke the wicked there will be sure delight, but such sure delight is not promised to us for judging one another. Reproving the wicked is one thing - which we all are from time to time, so that Jesus addressed Peter as Satan right after he had recognized Jesus as the Son of God. Godly reproof is centered on conduct and goes no farther. Judging one another is presumptuous, overdriving our lights. As Paul wrote, "The Lord knows those that are his (we don't!), but whoever names the name of the Lord, let him depart from iniquity."
Christians are those that name the name of the Lord in this world. That's how the Bible gives it to us. "The name of God is blasphemed among the nations because of you," Ezekiel wrote. He wasn't referring to true disciples but to Israel as a whole, the people from whom the world was learning how to think of the living God.
A very relevant example is David's servant Joab. He was altogether personally loyal to David's person, but he never got David's mind on things. So he was always killing people that David didn't want killed. David gave Solomon the task of doing away with Joab after his own death, to avenge the blood of Amasa and Abner whom he murdered. But who could say up to then that Joab was not David's servant?
There are lots of Joabs in the world today, people who would do anything for Jesus, including killing people he doesn't want killed. Just as Joab called David my lord the king and never could learn to do as he said, like not murdering people, these disciples are always slandering Muslims, reviling and misrepresenting other religious opponents, and admiring and following rich guys in fancy clothes and big cars, like the world around them that they love. But if they love Jesus, preach him in the world, confess that he is Lord even when they get hated for it, they're Christians, aren't they?
Well, maybe not, since they're blowing off what he says, and Jesus did say, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and don't do the things that I say?" Lots of people will say at the last day, "Look at how we served you and did all sorts of wonderful things in your name," and they won't be jiving. They'll believe their own plea, which they're making at the judgment seat of Christ and they will be truly surprised when he says, "I never knew you."
But maybe they really are disciples. Who is Jesus asking, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord and don't do what I say?" None other than his disciples who followed him up the mountain. And he was curing them with the word of truth, if they could hear it. So how can I say someone is not a Christian just because he's a bruised reed or a smoking wick? I just don't know that.
When someone names the name of the Lord and claims to be his disciple, it takes too long to explain to the world that he's not a Christian, especially since we don't know where he stands - because ultimately we're all what God is going to do about us, and that is not yet seen.
I've been very clear that the United States is not a Christian country. It has a Christian heritage, but so does the whole earth, because God made the whole thing and it bears his mark, and all are descended from Noah, whom God saved out of the flood. And the Christian heritage of the United States is a complicated thing, because it's a heritage of falling away, of enormous spiritual pride and self-conceit - the Pilgrims and the Puritans vaunting themselves as the light of the world, the city on the hill, as they robbed and murdered those they found here, repaying them evil for the good they received from the Indians who kept them alive through their first winter.
It is just shuck and jive to speak of Christians being a small and powerless minority in the US, unable to affect public policy. Is it not the Christian churches who egg on the bombings and invasions of others, and the ever-increasing greed and cruelty of the Israeli state? Evangelical church members consistently show higher approval of torture than any other segment of the American population. So can we just tell the world that these evangelicals, these Bible preachers and faithful students of the Bible, with their public preaching of Jesus, are not Christians? They're Christians, baby. They're apostate from Christ, but in Bible terms they're Christians - in a way. Jesus was shut out of the Laodicean church, standing outside and knocking, ready to puke them up in fact, but Laodicea was still his church.
Let's think further about where all this goes. When Paul writes, "Now we see in a mirror in a riddle," we'd best figure that some things just won't be clear. We're in the church of Jesus Christ, when we're in Laodicea, but he's not allowed in. Does that make any sense? Well, no, but that's how it is. It's being Attwood among the Christoids, among Christians without Christ.