Christian, the short definition…


In a recent This American Life entitled Good Guys, comedian and storyteller Mike Birbiglia provided a narrative definition of the concept. In his familiar dry wit he discussed a bus ride and his interaction with a not-so-nice-guy. During the story he defined good guys in this way: “not-nice-guys are the ones who do the things that all of us think about and want to do but don’t.” In the case of the bus ride the action in question was staring down a beautiful woman. Mike explained that he was a good guy because he looked once to see her beauty and then spent the rest of the trip staring at the floor. His travel-mate in the seat across the aisle stared openly and throughout the ride. Nice guy. Not so nice guy.

I think Mike’s definition is fantastic. In it I hear Jesus’ advise to be angry and sin not.  Jesus, unlike many modern religious folk, allowed his disciples to feel and see and desire and want and have. In this world all of us see injustice and get angry. In this world all of us experience loss and get sad or depressed. In this world all of us experience triumph and feel elated. In this world… we could go on and on. Yet a lot of what makes us who we are is not so much the experiences but in how we deal, how we cope. 

A Christian is someone who see injustice; and yet continues to have faith in God and hopes in him. A Christian is someone who experiences loss; and yet continues to have faith in God and hopes in him. A Christian is someone who experiences success; and yet continues to have faith in God and hopes in him. 

Author and theologian Jurgen Moltmann puts it this way: “Thus, faith believes God to be true, hope awaits the time when this truth shall be manifested.” 

As a Christian I experience injustice and still believe that God is just; and I have hope that one day I will see that justice (and be a part of that justice). As a Christian I experience loss and still believe that God is loving; and I have hope that one I will see and experience and know that love in its fullest form. As a Christian I experience success and still believe that God is bigger than I could ever imagine; and I have hope that one day I will be able to place my full trust in him and will learn to stop leaning on myself and my understanding. 

This is not an entirely blind affair. Daily I pick up my cross; and daily I follow him along the path of Golgotha. Daily, I feel and I believe, Daily, I trust. Daily, I hope. And in the doing, I have already began to experience the justice of God. I have already begun to experience the love of God. I have already begun to experience the majesty of God. Yet I know this to be true; that as of now I glimpse into a glass darkly; but one day I will stand in the light of God and begin to experience the fullness of God. And that fullness is so vast. That fullness is so overwhelming. That fullness is so all encompassing that it will take me an eternity to fully understand; to fully experience; to fully appreciate. 

With each new day, I stand on the precipice of eternity and I throw my rock into the abyss. And I so so with trust and with hope. That is what makes me Christian. I do the things that many others only think or pretend to do. I do the things that everyone considers in the quiet, dead of night. I listen. I watch. I feel. I believe. I trust. I seek to understand. But above all I hope, therefore I am. 

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