A number of years ago the novelist Anne Rice rejoined the Catholic Church. Miraculously she had been drawn back to a life of faith after many years of questioning the existence of God and flirting with atheism.
After a time Ms Rice was shocked and became deeply disheartened by what she found. Too often, she observed that the Christians with whom she was having fellowship, based their own identity in terms of the ideas and people they were against. In particular she found that many Christians were hostile to Muslims, Jews and those who supported same sex relationships.
Knowing that as a Christian her own identity was rooted in her personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Ms Rice left what she had returned to. She wrote that she left the church ‘in the name of Christ’, adding that ‘following Christ does not mean following his followers.’
At a recent conference, the author Brian McLaren, addressed what he called "The Crisis of Christian Identity."
He argued that across the denominations, some believers have a "strong-hostile" religious identity; while others, careful not to offend, have a "weak-benign" identity.
McLaren argued that neither of these is satisfactory. Based on a thorough study of the Gospels, he said the ideal that best reflects the values and practice of Jesus is a strong religious identity based not on hostility to others but on benevolence toward them. Sadly, much of church history has been about the dishonouring of this ideal.
What do 21st century Scottish evangelical Christians base their identity on? Do we play the game of ‘follow the leader’...........TV evangelist, apostle, pastor, or are we true followers of Christ truly walking in His light with His power and guided by His values and His presence.
Just in case there is some confusion on this issue, scripture is very clear. Here’s what the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Galatian church...................
‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’
Let’s follow Jesus and show benevolence towards others with our words and deeds.