It seems that every church, every Christian, has a list of what they believe makes a Christian a Christian. Typically this is a rather lengthy list that they believe people must follow. The problem is Jesus didn’t seem to have that list.
I’m convinced we’ve overcomplicated what it means to be a Christain, and it’s time to stop excluding people over lesser issues.
The ONE Thing Christians MUST Believe
- Jesus was the sacrifice for our sins and is the only way to eternity.
This to me is the one thing that defines what makes a Christian a Christian. That’s it. I know many people will disagree. I’m sure some will call this heretical. But I just can’t find anything in the Bible that says anything different.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9-10
We’ve made following Jesus so convoluted. You have to believe Jesus is who he says he is AND follow these 586 rules. And that’s not founded in Biblical teaching.
The one thing that Christians must believe is that Jesus paid the price for our sins and is the only way to heaven. That’s it. And when we do that the proof of that decision is found in how we treat others.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7
This isn’t saying nothing else matters… What we believe about the Bible, heaven/hell, communion, worship, and everything else really matters. But that’s not what makes a Christian. You can be a Christian and not believe in the inherent word of God. You can be a Universalist or a Calvinist and still be a Christian. You can be a Christian as long as you have put your faith in Jesus.
There is one primary belief; everything else is secondary or even tertiary. Not to say they aren’t important. But I’ve seen so many people that are genuinely following Jesus but believe something different about a secondary belief. And because of that belief they are labeled a heretic and not a Christian. I just can’t understand how we can do that.
Since I’ve mentioned some of the other beliefs, I thought I’d share how I view them in tiers of importance. Maybe for you it looks a little different, but this is how I view it. This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, but you can start to see how things fall.
2nd Tier Beliefs
- Who is saved… Universalism, Calvinism, Arminianism, etc…
- Baptism (sprinkled or immersed)
- Authority of Scripture (inspired, inherent, etc)
- Literal eternal hell, Annihilationism, or no hell
- Views on what is sin and what isn’t
- How we love God and love others (Implementation of faith)
- The Trinity
- Human sexuality
These things matter. In fact they matter a GREAT deal.
But Jesus is the center, not these issues. And the reason I think this distinction is important is because I have seen many Christians say you cannot be a Christian until you do, or don’t do ________. Whatever that is. But the reality is, is that a Christian is someone that believes Jesus came, died for their sins, and rose again. All these issues, while important, are not salvation issues.
To be frank I’m sick of Christians claiming you have to believe these 586, exactly as they do, otherwise you aren’t really a Christian. No you don’t. That’s not how this thing works.
We can disagree on some of these issues and still be Christians. That’s why Paul was able to say, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” Ephesians 2:14. We can live at peace with those that think and live differently than us.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. John 5:24
3rd Tier Beliefs
- Complementarian vs Egalitarian views/Gender roles in church
- Creation theories: young earth, old earth, evolution.
- View of end times: Pre-Tribulation, Post-Tribulation, Amillennial
I would argue these issues have less importance than the above issues. You can make a strong Biblical cause for either side. That is not saying we shouldn’t figure out what we believe and why. However we should certainly not hold others to our decision.
- Denominational preferences
- How often do you take communion
- Style of worship
- Version of the Bible you read
- Color of the carpet
These issues are simply preference. There is not Biblical standing one way or another. It just comes down to what you prefer.
I am convinced that there are some of my beliefs, my theology, that are wrong. I know there is. There’s no way that as a human I cannot fully fathom God. So I hold onto my theology loosely, because some of it is wrong. I just don’t know what parts. My guess is in your life you probably have a view you are convinced of, but one day you will find out you are wrong. Maybe instead of throwing stones at each other over our different beliefs we search for the beauty of different people being able to come together to learn from each other.
Listen. I certainly don’t have all the answers. I could very well be wrong; in fact I’m sure there are many areas I am. If you think differently I would love to hear from you. Comment below and let’s engage in a conversation.