This I believe:
—M. Scott Peck wrote
What being a Christian means, at the very least, is that whenever there is a decision to be made, which may be several times a day, an alternative should not be discarded simply because it is sacrificial.
Oftentimes when I tell people I’m a Christian, they ask the question, “what kind?” I’ve learned that people expect an “I’m Catholic” or “I’m Baptist,” “I’m Lutheran” or “I’m Methodist.” “I’m LDS,” or “I’m Presbyterian.” The list could go on and on. Considering myself none of these, I’m never too sure how to answer. I’m just Christian.
I think my lack of denominational loyalty stems from spending the first year after my decision to become a Christian without attending any kind of church. There was no one to write out a list of doctrines and rules that I had to abide by in order to be a “true” believer. It was simply me and the words of Christ in the pages of my Bible that said of the story of the Good Samaritan to “go, and do likewise.”
For those unacquainted with the Good Samaritan, it was a parable used by Jesus to illustrate the concept of loving your neighbor as yourself. It goes something like this: A man was walking down the road to Jericho when he was stopped by a group of thieves. Being robbed, stripped, and beaten, he was left on the side of the road to die. A priest walked by and saw him, moved to the other side of the road, and kept walking. A while later, another priest did the same. Then, a Samaritan came along, picked the man up, bound his wounds, fed him, brought him into town, and paid for him to stay at an inn until he fully recovered.
On the surface, one could interpret this today as a warm and fuzzy way to say “go, and stop on the side of the road to help people who have flat tires.” But the message goes much deeper. To stop and help the man was dangerous on a many different levels. The road was a hazardous one, 17 miles long with rough terrain and plenty of hiding places for bandits. It was nicknamed the “Path of Blood.” If he was dead or died on the way, according to Jewish tradition the passersby would become unclean and have to go through a bunch of rituals to become clean again. Loving is messy. Not only that, but if they couldn’t find the potentially dead man’s family then they would have the whole responsibility of paying for his proper burial. Loving is costly. If they slowed down they may be stopped by bandits themselves, so they probably wanted to get out of there ASAP. Loving is risky. Or, maybe they were at the tail end of a long trip and just wanted to see their families and get home to rest. Loving is sacrificial.
To me, being a Christian is defined by more than my set of doctrines. There are, of course, certain ones that I hold onto and believe without compromise, but my faith is defined by what truly tells what I believe, which is the way I live. Not to “go, and think likewise,” but more to “go, and do likewise.” It’s following the example of Christ by caring about people whether or not they show the same care, whether or not they believe what I do, or whether or not I feel like it. It’s loving people who may not love me in return, helping someone even if it costs me time, finances, or doing something else that I think (in my moments of thoughtlessness) is more worthwhile.
This I believe, and to this I aspire: to live and to love more like Jesus.
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