This week I talked with someone who believes ‘Christian’ is interchangeable with being good, kind, generous, compassionate, humble. I understand the point, because the fruit – or the evidence – of the work of the Spirit in someone’s life is exactly that (patience, kindness, goodness, self-control etc. – Galatians 5:22-23)

But the word ‘Christian’ is not intended to describe someone’s character. If it was, then an atheist or a Muslim or a Hindu who is kind and generous and humble and gentle and compassionate would be, “just as Christian” (or more so) than the average person who has been baptized and joined a church.

But that’s not what Christianity is. A Christian is someone who has accepted the teachings of Jesus and made a commitment to follow as a disciple.

We can reasonably expect that following Jesus should lead to compassion and kindness and goodness and more. That makes good sense because Jesus was quite clear that, “Some people say ‘Lord, Lord’… but I don’t even know them!” (Matthew 7:21-23)

But it’s not the behavior that makes the Christian – it’s responding to Christ’s invitation to become a disciple that leads to such evidence in our lives.

Many people want it to be true that simply being good and doing good will result in life everlasting, no matter what religion we choose.
All I know is that “I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust, and I’m convinced God is powerful enough to protect what he has placed in my trust until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).

A Christian is someone who accepts Christ’s invitation and follows the Way. If that decision does not lead us to love, and good works, and evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, then it wouldn’t surprise me for a minute to hear Jesus say, “Who are you? I never even knew you…”

I wouldn’t presume to speak for God, but I do know this: I know that Jesus will speak for me, and – if only you ask – I know Jesus would speak for you too.

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Derek Maul has written for many news outlets, including the Tampa Tribune, The United Methodist News Service, All Pro Dad, FOCUS Magazine, Newsweek, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Presbyterians Today, Guideposts, Chicken Soup for the Soul and many other publications. Read Derek Maul’s daily blog posts at