For Reals

What does it mean to be truly genuine? I checked just for curiosity’s sake, and this is what it had to say:

1. possessing the claimed or attributed character, quality, or origin; not counterfeit; authentic; real: genuine sympathy; a genuine antique.
2. properly so called: a genuine case of smallpox.
3. free from pretense, affectation, or hypocrisy; sincere: a genuine person.
4. descended from the original stock; pure in breed: a genuine Celtic people.

 Definition number three suits my thinking this morning. It’s a tall order.

To be free from pretense, affectation, or hypocrisy–to be sincere–makes one a genuine person, at least by definition in the dictionary.

So what does it mean to be a genuine Christian? Obviously, you need to have faith because if you don’t have faith in Christ, you’re not a Christian. And if you don’t believe the Bible, you’re just spinning your wheels if you claim to be a Christian. But there is more to Christianity than just believing in something–or as in the case of most Christians, believing against something. Our faith requires action, so if you combine the dictionary’s definition to what it means to be a Christian, your actions need to be free from pretense, affectation or hypocrisy to be a genuine Christian.

 Great! . . . So how do we do that?

Well, the answer is pretty simple. Granted, it’s easier said than done, but then most things in life are. You can find the answer in 1 John 4:20-21:

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.

If you want to be a genuine Christian, you need to love people. And not only do you need to love people who don’t know Christ, you need to love people do who. Now, I know that sounds backwards, that it should be harder to love people who don’t share your faith. But to tell you the truth, for me, Christians are the hardest people group to love. Not all of them, of course. Because my closest, dearest friends are Christians who I love more than life. But then–I know some other Christians who aren’t so easy to love. Some of them are hypocritical. Many of them are judgmental. All of them are stubborn. (I could very easily be looking in a mirror right now because I display all these qualities too.) But to be a genuine Christian, I need to love my fellow Believers in spite of their flaws, in spite of our differences of opinion in preference. If they believe in Christ, they are my brothers and sisters; and I don’t have a choice whether I love them or not. I am commanded to love them.

I honestly struggle with this at times because I have experienced so much hurt and hate at the hands of the church and religion. And I have seen other people I love being torn to pieces by cruel words and selfish actions–things you would expect of the world but not of the church! But, yet, the people who have hurt me the most in my life have been other Christians. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

We are a family. And, certainly, it’s normal for families to squabble, but generally speaking families don’t try to destroy each other. (Like I said, generally speaking. I think I’ve heard stories of an axe murderer on my Dad’s side of the family but that could have been a joke.)

Want to be genuine? Christians, love each other. You don’t really have a choice. And if you choose to hate another Christian anyway, you’re a liar. Those aren’t my words. They’re God’s. And some day soon, He’ll call you on it.