What is the definition of a Christian?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 24, 2019

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If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?  I’ve heard ministers ask this soul-searching question during sermons encouraging Christians to live out what they profess to believe.

Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani knows firsthand the answer to that question. In 2009 the Christian pastor was convicted, and sentenced to death for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity.  He stated that he had not practiced any religion before Christianity.

According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in 2010 the pastor was sentenced to death if he did not recant and convert to Islam.  His sentence was appealed by a prominent human rights attorney and a year later the sentence was upheld.  His execution order was issued in February 2012.

After international outcry, the Iranian courts rescinded his death penalty, credited him for prison time he’d already served and released him on bail.  Nadarkhani was detained again and then released on bail in 2016.  During a second trial, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.  Appeals continued until May 2018, but a few months later he was taken to prison.

What is a Christian?  First, I looked up the word in a dictionary that defined a Christian as “a person who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.”  The Holman Bible Dictionary states, “A Christian is one who becomes an adherent of Christ, whose daily life and behavior facing adversity is like Christ.”  Another Bible scholar describes a Christian as “someone who has repented of their sins and turned to Christ for their salvation, and as a result has become part of God’s family.”

A.W. Tozer once said a real Christian, “feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen, talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst.  He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, and hears the inaudible.”

I’ve heard it said that just because someone says they are a Christian may not mean anything.  Only God knows, “….For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).  Some people say they do not want to become a Christian because of what hypocrites in the church.  Pastor and author Adrian Rogers has made this comparison, “You don’t throw away all the money just because there are a few counterfeit bills from time to time.”

Through the years growing up in church, I remember singing a song based on 1 John 3:14 that says, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”  And, as someone once said, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”

Jan White is a national award-winning religion columnist. She can be reached at jan@janwhitewriter.com