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  • Jim Etherton

What is a Christian?

In the news recently there has been debate as to the extent to which Great Britain is a Christian country. I wonder whether many UK citizens even have any idea what it means to be a Christian.

In everyday language, people sometimes use the word Christian simply to describe good behaviour or respectability in expressions like ‘that was not a very Christian thing to do’. In this view, Christians are simply people who do good.

On official forms which include a box where we can state our religion, I expect many people put ‘Christian’ simply because they certainly do not adhere to any other faith, are not confirmed atheists, and have had some loose connection with a church in the past either directly or through family members.

Perhaps we think of Christians simply as people who attend church at least occasionally, or even regularly.

However, none of these things get to the heart of what it means to be a Christian. Christians are those who believe and trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of every wrong thought, word and action. None of us is completely good; every one of us has done things of which we are ashamed and which we would not want publicised. We all need forgiveness for the past to free us to live more productive, fruitful and helpful lives in the present and to give us peace when our time on this earth is drawing to a close. A friend of mine put it very succinctly recently in his Facebook status “Good people don’t go to heaven, forgiven people do”.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Those of us who attend church are not there because we are good – we are there because we know that we need to hear that message of forgiveness afresh and to give thanks to God for what he has done for us. As we pray and worship God together, he assures us that he accepts us because of what Jesus did on the cross and he gives us new strength for the week ahead. You would be welcome to join us if you need to hear that too.

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