How do we know whether someone is a Christian or not? It is an interesting question posed to me recently -- not in the way of examining others for their hypocrisy but rahter for me to examine my own.
Before I continue, let me address the reader who is not a Christian or perhaps even an atheist. Perhaps you should skip this entry. If not, please understand this is not a case for debating philosophy or pointing out religious flaws. This post is specifically targeted to those who are already come to the belief of the Christian creed.
I've often been told, as heard in a song, they will know we are Christians by our love. But that can sound a little vague or interpreted to mean we render aid to anyone. Giving aid is part of the dogma, but it is sometimes difficult to agree on what that looks like, whether doing something or doing nothing is "helping" or not. But perhaps most overlooked, this idea is not the most important characteristic of being a Christian.
In Matthew 22, Jesus tells us the greatest commandment is to love God completely - heart, soul and mind. I'm surprised how often that gets glossed over because that's a pretty heavy statement. Love God with all my heart, with all my soul and all my mind. And I am to do this above loving others.
That type of love requires a relationship, dedication and commitment - even above the practices I keep with my wife or with my children. This type of love goes beyond acknowledging that God simply exists. I know that the mayor of my city exists, but that doesn't mean I love him or her. I might not even know the mayor, but I can admit in public that I believe the mayor exists.
Do you believe in God? The question does not translate well in English because the word "belief" often comes with the implied connotation of "believe in the existence of." Do you believe in ghosts? or in UFOs? But that is not how the word is used in Greek when referenced to God.
A better translation is the word "trust." Do you trust in God? That changes the relationship and responsibility required to answer the question. Once one determines the answer is yes, then the follow-up question is: do you trust Him with all your heart, soul and mind?
When I do this, when I place God above even my marriage, my children or my career, then counter-intuitively, all those other things turn out better. And also, perhaps "better" means something different now too. As Kyle Idleman states, if one doesn't match the top bottom on a shirt, then the rest of the buttons don't line up and the shirt fits awkwardly. But if the top botton is in place properly, then all the other buttons beneath just simply align.