By Tom and Karen Quiner
It’s a good question.
A Quiner’s Diner reader, a self-professed agnostic, asks what is a true Christian? Here’s how we see it.
A true Christian is a sinner. Let’s lay it on the line and start there. Christ didn’t come into this world to save saints. He came to save us sinners.
Frankly, we don’t know a single true Christian who isn’t a practicing sinner.
The true Christian recognizes this. Even more, the true Christian acknowledges Christ as his Lord. Through faith, he believes Christ is God’s Son who was put to death by man, only to rise again as evidence that God’s love is stronger than death.
What does that mean?
It means that the true Christian believes he will spend eternity with Christ through faith and God’s grace.
And here is the other important point. A true Christian, once he acknowledges his sinfulness and his need for God, allows himself to be transformed into a creature of love. It doesn’t count to simply say that you believe Christ is the Son of God and that you are saved and leave it at that. Gradually, Christ is allowed to take over your life, so that you become more and more like Him. This will take a lifetime for most of us. We will continue to sin, turn to God, get forgiven and then try to do better the next time.
Do you have to be a Catholic to be a true Christian?
Do you have to be a Protestant to be a true Christian?
Catholics and Protestants who believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ and sincerely strive to live their life by Christ are people we’d consider to be true Christians.
That’s not to say that there aren’t differences between Catholics and Protestants. Perhaps the biggest has to do with how we attain salvation. Many Protestants believe salvation is attained through faith alone. Catholics have a broader view, that salvation flows from faith and works, as stated in James 2:17:
“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Honorable Christians have debated this notion for centuries. We’ll leave it to the theologians to sort it out.
We’d put another idea on the table. I think true Christians come together and worship in community, just as the disciples showed us. “All I need is me and my Bible” doesn’t count. It is too easy to get the message wrong if left to our own devices. We need community. Good communities keep us accountable and teach us to love. Jesus Himself encouraged us to do just that in Matthew 18:20:
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
A final thought. Our Protestant brothers and sisters speak of developing a personal relationship with Christ. What a beautiful thought. As a Catholic, and a convert from Protestantism, I agree. (Karen is a cradle Catholic.) In our Catholic tradition, our relationship with Christ is intensely personal through our belief in the Sacraments. In the Eucharist, Christ is present, not symbolically, but in actuality, and enters right into our body, becoming one with us.
Such a beautiful mystery.
What is a true Christian? We hope people we encounter consider us to be true Christians.