Really? I wonder what you think being a Christian looks like? Or what a church actually is?
See, I would like you to reconsider what you are actually saying here.
Being a Christian
That’s easy – to be a Christian all you have to do is believe in God.
Sorry to be a smart alec, but the devil believes in God too, and he’s definitely not a Christian. So there’s certainly got to be more to being a Christian than just believing in God.
Oh yes – there are the Ten Commandments. That was God’s original blueprint for human relationships, and the first three of them relate specifically to the God/man relationship. We are to believe in the Lord our God who brought the people of Israel out of Egypt, have no other gods or make other idols and we are not to misuse the name of God.
The rest of the Ten Commandments all talk about how we humans should relate to each other. Much of this is plain common sense – so that people can get along with each other and look out for each other, in other words, be in community.
But that’s all Old Testament. Surely we’ve outgrown that – we live in the New Covenant now and the Old Testament doesn’t apply anymore.
If that was truly the case, why is the whole Bible our reference book for life? Why did the church Fathers not toss out the whole Old Testament in favour of the Gospels, Paul’s letters and a few other bits and pieces? There is so much more to this than meets the eye!
Whether you believe in God or not, you must realise that the legal system in the Western world has the Ten Commandments as its foundation. Our society is built with those principles in mind.
Jesus fulfils the Old Testament – in fact he sums it up by saying that we are to love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves, bringing a whole new dimension into our relationships with God and others. The Jews tried to trick Jesus by asking him what is the greatest commandment in the law. He summed up the law and the prophets by saying “love God and love your neighbor as yourself”.
Being a Christian, then, apart from the obvious criterion of believing in God, implies a relationship with God that is living and active.
Again I’m going to offend your sensibilities by suggesting that “church” as we normally perceive it, is a human construct and has little to do with the relationship mentioned above.
In the Old Testament, the synagogue was the gathering place of the Jews. There were various rules about how people conducted themselves there. Its purpose was to keep the scrolls of the Law and be a place for worship and study and a place where the priests would intercede for the people.
While it still serves a purpose for prayer, reading the Law and study, a synagogue is also a social centre and a place of assembly.
In the New Testament, the early Christians met in homes and “church” buildings were not specifically constructed until about the 11th Century. “Church” became a term synonymous with a group of believers or the building in which they met.
If we look at the description of the early church in Acts Chapter 2, nothing about it seems to be familiar with what we are used to as “church”. Firstly, but not chronologically, they met every day! We relegate church to Sundays and get miffed if they want to have a midweek prayer meeting.
When they met, there was teaching (not preaching a sermon which is a totally different thing), prayer and fasting (even extended seasons of these), fellowship (koinonia), breaking of bread together, and sharing of belongings (often misunderstood: this spoke of a generosity of spirit among the believers).
But the one astounding thing that seems to be missing from our churches is the sense of awe – what is God going to do next?, which was provoked by the signs and wonders that were experienced as God moved in their midst.
What’s more, God added to their number daily those who were being saved!
Who wouldn’t want to be part of a church like this!!!
So if you claim to be a Christian, it is hard to do relationship by yourself. You need other Christians around you in order to live out your faith.
And the picture of the Acts church is definitely something to be desired – I guess if that’s not your experience I don’t blame you for not wanting to go to church. But then having that model in front of you, the challenge would be to find a church and make it into an Acts one!
Aira Chilcott is a retired secondary school teacher with lots of science and theology under her belt. Aira is a panellist for Young Writers and indulges in reading, bushwalking, volunteering at a nature reserve and learning to play clarinet. Aira is married to Bill and they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html