What Does it Mean to be a Christian?

There are many answers for what it means to be a Christian: following the teachings of Christ as taught in the Bible, following the Holy Spirit, or loving others. All these are true, but these can be simplified even further: being a Christian means experiencing God’s love for you.

God calls us to Him. All have fallen away from God and need to be saved by Jesus to return to Him. (Romans 3:23). For some of us, this is a new idea, but others have heard this their entire life. Whether you grew up in church and know all the answers to every Bible trivia question ever asked, or if you are hearing these ideas expressed this way for the first time, the truth is the same for each of us. We need to experience the love of God in our lives everyday.

We need to experience the forgiving love as we repent and turn our lives to Him, each and every time there is a need for repentance. We need to experience His redeeming love as we grow into an understanding of His purpose for our lives. We need to experience His bountiful love as we learn to trust that He provides for us.

As we learn to be more and more aware of His love for us, we can then experience an awareness of God on a deeper level, as God is love. This new awareness transforms our moments, and enlivens our lives as we learn to see things through His perspective. Being a Christian is about walking day in and day out in this awareness. We can fill our days with a fullness of life and the power of God based on knowing Him more.

Part of this process of growing more aware of His love is learning to believe what He says about us. God says we are loved, we are valuable, we are precious, and we are eternal. Not only do we believe this about ourselves, but when we look at others, we should believe in their value as well.

When we see God’s love and experience how it flows from Him to everyone, we see their value and we know that we are all children of God, equal before Him. He shows no favorites; He loves all of us.

Where Do I Serve?

When we think of serving, we often think of missions in far off places with grueling surroundings. Serving at its core, however, is simply being useful. We don’t need to be in any particular place or doing any particular thing. We need to be useful wherever we are.

Service to your Family

Our usefulness starts at home. It wasn’t just a coincidence that honoring your father and your mother was a part of the original ten commandments God gave to His children. Service to the world at large is wonderful, but falls short if you aren’t useful to the family God put you in.

Service to your Church

The next family God put you in is a church family. Being helpful to your church family is the next place to focus on being useful. Community is vital to a healthy life and supporting our community is how we can contribute to the health of our immediate surroundings. The church is there to help protect and serve others that we can’t reach on our own or who don’t have a family to help them. Serving at our church is the best way we have to create a connected environment for everyone.

Service to your Neighborhood

The phrase, “Location, location, location!” is usually referring to real estate and the prime locations that go for lots of money. Our location, where we live and where we spend our time, impacts our friendships and relationships. Being useful in our neighborhood allows us to connect and support the people we spend the most time around.

It is good to support friends and family that live far away; however, supporting those in our immediate surroundings help us build  strong connections that return and support us when we are in need.

Service to the World

After our local connections, we can offer support to the world. This is usually done by connecting with a large mission or service organization that allows us to contribute to causes around the world. Sometimes this is in person with skills or labor, but often this is with money.

We can feel connected with others at a global level when we offer this kind of service. Seeing the goodness and blessings that are being worked out all over the planet can help us remember how big God’s power and plan are.

It is important to remember, though, that this kind of service isn’t a replacement for being involved locally. God put us where we are for a reason of His own; let’s build up our community within the circles of people that God has placed us in.

Who Do I Love?

God wants us to love everybody. Easier said than done, and what even are we saying? Loving your neighbor is a foundational truth of Christianity, so how do we practice being aware of our love for them?

Love is the connection that brings us together. Love lifts us up and builds us up with strength and joy. We see our love in how others respond to our words, our actions, and even our presence.

Seeing Love

We know when we feel loved. We feel connected, important and supported. It is much more difficult to know if other people feel loved by us. Each person needs to be loved in slightly different ways. How they feel most supported  is different for each person in our life, just as we are different in what we need. The more deeply we know someone, the more deeply we can express our love for them. We can speak to them with our actions, (the loudest way to speak to someone), and they can understand our care for them.

Love comes in so many forms that it can be difficult sometimes to see it as love. We might call it politeness or being a good neighbor. Sometimes it’s civic duty or being a responsible citizen. All the ways  we live and act to benefit others, individual or groups is love. Even being a good worker and honoring your boss is an act that supports and lifts up; it’s an act of love.

Love doesn’t have to mushy, gushy and make someone cry. Love can be anything that supports and helps. It builds connections and creates bridges between people.

Practicing Love

To fully love others, we must consciously practice love, both in our actions and in our thoughts. Focusing our thoughts on building others up, on supporting the community that is around us, makes love a priority in our lives.

Practicing love may look different from person to person because God has given us all different gifts. Some are gifted in words, others in organization and execution, others in celebrating beauty in people and nature. Whatever your gifts are, God has given them to be used to support and build up.

Building Bridges

Love is the force that brings people together. It is the bridge that allows us to connect to others to help and find joy in life together. This connection can only start when one person reaches out. Love flourishes when hearts and minds are open to other people. If you’ve ever felt alone in a crowd, you know the barriers that can be between people. Love breaks those barriers so we can feel connected, whether we’re in a crowd or with an individual, far away from the crowd.

Love is the connection between us that allows support to build up our community. It is so vital to love everyone because anyone in our community that doesn’t feel connected or important is a hole in the cloth that makes up the community God has created for us to live in. Holes create weakness in our world and loss and hurt creep in through these areas.

Let’s work together to create a community of connection and support to everyone that God brings into our lives.

What Is Love?

Love is broadly used in our culture, but not often specifically defined. The Bible tells us that it’s by our love we will be known as Christians (John 13:35). Applying the broad definition of our culture to such a specific Biblical purpose can lead to confusion about how we are supposed to be living. Defining exactly what we mean by love, in the sense of how it defines us as Christians, can be very helpful.

Love Can be an Emotion

Love as an emotion is arguably the most connected form of love. We feel love towards dear people in our lives. We seek out romantic love in a partner. We find material things that we love-our new favorite thing from lip balm to new houses.

All of these  feelings revolve around the emotional sensation of connecting with someone or something. This emotional side of love is a legitimate experience of love, and is important when we need to connect with things and people we value.

Love Can be an Action

Taking action to do something good for another person is also called love. It’s the expression of the emotion that we feel. We feel love toward someone and so we do something good for them, or we help take care of a need they have.

Expressing love as an action is an important part of love because it tests the mettle of our affection and determines how much we mean it. It makes our connection tangible.

The Balance of Love

We walk in love when we keep emotions and actions feeding each other. In some cases, the feeling comes first and the action comes later. Romantic love often, not always, falls into this pattern. Other times, we do what we know we should for others and the action fills us with a feeling of good-will to them. Serving others usually follows this pattern. Both ways are important and living in love means we are experiencing both sides of the love: the action and the emotion.

The Love of Christians

As Christians, there’s more to the love that others should see in us. Most people have love in them, Christian or not. It might be only a small amount of love, it might be highly conditional love, it might be damaged and manipulative love. It’s not that Christians have love and nobody else does; it’s the type of love that Christians have that sets them apart.

The type of love that Christians have is a selfless love. The love we offer others is a love that came to us through God by the sacrifice of Jesus: ultimate selflessness. What sets us apart is that our love doesn’t come from us and fill our needs first. We have a love that starts with the needs of others, not the needs of ourselves.

Being known by our love means we become filled by something so clearly that it becomes what all people see when they encounter us. Our ultimate defining feature should be an overflowing of God’s selfless love for everyone.