June 2015

June 9, 2015

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

What are the marks of a Christian? What is distinctive about Christians? What is it that marks us out, makes us different and identifies us to the world as Christians? We don’t have the sign of the cross indelibly printed on our forehead. We don’t all have ‘I am a Christian’ emblazoned on our clothes or a cross pinned to our lapels. In fact it could be argued that if we have to wear a sign that identifies us as a Christian then we are not living as Christians. That we are Christians should be instantly identifiable by our lifestyle, deeds, actions, words, demeanour and attitude.

Of course it is our acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour as well as of his sacrificial death on a cross in place of us and His subsequent resurrection that actually make us Christian. But the words of Jesus as recorded in the gospels as well as those of the prophets, priests and apostles are extremely challenging. They make it very clear that our faith is not a cerebral thing but one that shows itself in action. Furthermore it is not just tokenism such putting a few pounds in a charity box or donating old clothes to charity it is a complete and total radical lifestyle. Often those who promote such a radical lifestyle are called socialists or communists or accused of pushing the agenda of one political party when in reality they are calling people to radical discipleship and pursuit of the Gospel agenda.

As Christians we must be less concerned with ourselves and more concerned about others, less individualistic and more socialistic, less focussed on our wealth and more generous in our giving. We must be men and women of integrity in that when we make a decision in church meeting we should follow it through in our own lives. Let me give an example. Many years ago the Beacon Church Centre made a decision to use Fairtrade coffee, tea and sugar but few of us use them in our homes. It is great that thousands of churches have gone over to Fairtrade products but it will not change anything, it is only when hundreds of thousands church members go over to Fairtrade products that real change will be experienced by the producers. The Bible teaches us to look after the foreigner and immigrant in our midst so how can we as Christians support a ban on immigration? Jesus told us to love our neighbour as ourselves yet we support the move towards ever cheaper food, clothes etc as we seek out bargains thereby denying other people a living wage or a job as well as putting farmers and small retailers out of business. How can we deny other nations the right to have nuclear weapons or power stations unless we are prepared to get rid of ours?

The last paragraph might seem radical but the Bible goes even further. It tells us that if our Christian brother (or sister) sins we should go and tell him what he has done, encourage him back to the truth and if he does not do so to excommunicate him. Yet we say any behaviour is alright as long as the person loves God. We are told to live at peace with one another in the church yet we are quick to criticise those who do not agree with our way of thinking and even make cruel unkind comments often passing them off as humour. And then is the question of money. The Bible tells us to make a tithe of 10% of all that we have to God and to give a thank offering on top. How many of us do that? It also tells us not to store up riches on earth.
There is much more that I could write. The Bible talks about compassion, mercy and justice. Jesus calls us all to share the gospel, baptise believers and teach them ‘to obey everything I have commanded you’.

We are called to a radical lifestyle, one that is so different from the world’s that everyone will recognise us as Christians. As the Bible says we are to be set apart, to be in the world but not of the world, are we ready to do that?