10th February (Ash Wednesday) What is a Christian?
This is the first of the Lent Studies
Reading: Luke 10:25-37 The Good Samaritan
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?”
27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.”
28 And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion,
34 and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
36 Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?”
37 He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
What is a Christian? It’s a deceptively simple question. It’s not simply defined by the country you live in, or the family you came from, or even someone who lives a ‘Christian’ life. Christians aren’t the only people who aspire to be loving, kind, honest and generous, or who have a concern for the weak and the vulnerable. Jesus, and most of the people in His stories, are Jewish, or pagans. Our country, family background and our way of life may all contribute to our understanding of being a Christian. But another ingredient is required: trust. Specifically trust in Jesus Christ.
A Christian is a work in progress. Some days we trust a little more, some days a little less. Our Christian lives can be distinctly wobbly, as we face challenges from relationships, work and the culture around us. Our belief in God can be upset by questions of suffering, or the actions of human beings including Christians. Christians are, by definition, not perfect, as we acknowledge our need for Jesus, we recognise our flaws and failings. But Christians live in the trust that God is with them, shaping them, helping them become more Christian, and more like Jesus.
People thinking about joining the Church, as well as Church members of many years, often feel their faith is not firm enough, or that they struggle with faith and get things wrong. The best Churches have room for doubt, and also the honesty to challenge people to live a more loving and generous life. Being a Christian is about a transformed life – turning from self-centredness to a life that acknowledges the need to love God and to love those around us. Being a Christian is the journey from simply loving ourselves to loving those in the world around us, and loving God.
- How would you define a Christian?
- Have you identified with any of the characters in this parable at different times in your life? If you are able to share, how did it make you feel?
- In what way would you show love to a stranger or an enemy?
What one thing could you do to be more help to others?
(Adapted from Learn: Exploring Faith – the Church of Scotland study booklet, Saint Andrew Press 2015)