What does it mean to be a Christian now, in this present time and place? It is a question I have been asking myself with increasing urgency in recent years. Safely within the four walls of the church I attend we sing “They’ll know we are Christians by our love” and “Christian hearts in love united,” and the pastors preach of Jesus’ love for the whole world. Then I go home and read the news, and so much of what is identified as “Christian” is very far from what I know of Jesus’ teachings.
As a member of a mainline, ecumenically active Protestant denomination, I’m inclined to hold a generously broad view. If person or group identifies themselves as Christian, I’m willing to take their word for it without applying any test of doctrine or practice. But when I observe their words and actions, I have to wonder – if that is Christian, then what am I?
Jesus taught his followers, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-16a) Examining the fruits of those who claim to be Christian, then, is a Christ-approved way of discerning whose example we should imitate and whose we should reject.