Question: is it OK to quit being a Christian in the name of following Christ?
A while back, best selling novelist Anne Rice renounced being a Christian via her Facebook page. She reasoned that she felt like an outsider to the Christian community for the past 10 years and finally has decided to quit Christianity altogether (except for following Christ, that is). So…what do you say about that?
Well, here’s what I would say to Anne Rice…
1. We should all quit being Christians.
I totally relate to her sense of feeling like an outsider to organized Christian religion. I feel the same way (for very different reasons). I resist applying the “Christian” label to myself because the early church did not apply it to themselves; outsiders labeled them as “Christians.” (see Acts 11:26) We should all quit acting like Christians and start living like loyal followers of Jesus.
2. Jesus is “anti” on some issues.
Rice stated her reasons for quitting Christianity as follows…
I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life.
Her reasoning incorrectly assumes that Jesus is not “anti” anything. Jesus is unabashedly anti-religiosity, anti-greed, anti-sexual-immorality, and anti-human-opinion-over-God’s-Word! Jesus is “anti” human-centered opinions because He’s “pro” God’s intended design for humanity.
3. Following Jesus has a divisive effect.
There’s no way to follow Jesus and avoid the divisiveness that Jesus brings. I’m not talking about the divisiveness of personality (like harsh and judgmental Christians). Nor am I talking about the divisiveness of personal immaturity and insecurity (like many church people with their us vs. them, isolate-from-other-people attitudes).
Jesus spoke of Himself in terms that could be considered divisive. He referred to Himself as a Light that reveals people’s darkness (John 3:19-21). He called Himself the Truth that connects people to God (John 14:6). That’s pretty divisive; light divides the darkness, and truth undermines falsehood.
4. You cannot embrace Jesus and reject His people.
If you want to follow Jesus, He will lead you into community with His people. He commands you to love His followers, to remain connected to His followers, and to participate in His world mission together.
Tragically, Jesus has taken a bad rap for all our “Christian” ways. He gets blamed for everything from the bloody Crusades, to greedy televangelists, to the GodHatesFags movement. Yet Jesus’ guilt by association with “Christians” is so unwarranted because these “Christians” do not represent Jesus, His teaching, His heart, or His view of the world.
So, yeah! I’m with Anne Rice; let’s totally quit being “Christians.” However, let’s instead become full-blown followers of Jesus.
Let’s follow Jesus all the way into His family called the Church (however imperfect it will be). Let’s follow Jesus all the way into His mission of touching, healing, and renewing our world (however inconvenient it will be). And let’s follow Jesus all the way out of our old selves and into the new creations we were meant to be in Him.
“Those who say that they live in him must live the same way he lived” - 1 John 2:6 (GWT)
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