James the Apostle
James the Apostle
I was chatting over the lunch dishes with friends today, and something occurred to me that I've been thinking about off and on for awhile. Real Christian faith cannot place importance on peculiar doctrines to the exclusion of peculiar practices. Therefore, I think there is a bare minimum that one has to do in order to be a Christian. Not "believe," not "accept," but do.
Lots of critters want to say, "believe this" and "accept that" and tack some generic notions of "good behavior" onto the end. Some will even say that faithful belief and faithful practice (orthodoxy and orthopraxy) are inseperable. Even then, many of those folks don't want to actually say, there are specific things one must do in order to be considered a Christian (by God or anyone else).
So quite obviously, I have a list. Let me know what you think about it. What would you add? What would you take away? Is there one that really shocks you? I'm curious...
Regular celebration of the Eucharist. Well, it was pretty obvious to most of you, so I thought I would get it out of the way. And I do mean "regular." Preferably weekly. Daily is great. Monthly can be cool. Twice a year? Forget it. What do you think you're doing? The point is, this
Be with people with whom you pray. Have a life in which you have friends with whom you pray, work and play. That doesn't necessarily mean praying with them a certain number of times per week, but rather that your prayers are grounded in a real life that you share. Do pray with one another. But don't just pray with one another. Don't be ranking those things in importance to the exclusion of some aspects. Be part of a community, darn it!
Make space in your life for the community. If someone lives a lifetime being ones own boss and answering only to oneself without the possibility of being called to task or corrected by others - and this of one's own free will - one cannot be a Christian. More simply, Christian discipleship means committment to the community that embodies God's reign. Committment to that means obedience in the concrete rather than the abstract, and that requires submitting to one another in humility and honoring one another above ourselves. Sometimes it means jumping on opportunities to choose caring for someone else over against our own preferences. If there's not space in our lives for that to happen, we aren't Christians.
Have a "real" discipline. And by "real" I mean, "something you do regularly because it's good for you and it's an expression of your commitment to Jesus and his community, not merely because you feel like it." That means getting off our butts to worship with the community, reading the Bible, praying the Office together, serving the poor, et al. It means you can and do periodically ask the question, "What am I called to do for my own formation and to serve others that will be an expression of who I/we are called to be in Jesus' restoration of the world that's going to be right no matter what I feel like?" Sure, maybe you'll like most of the good stuff most of the time. You probably won't always feel like it, but it's important that you do it anyway. I remember a bit from King David 1 or 2 Kings in which he says, "God forbid I would offer Yahweh a sacrifice that cost me nothing."
Okay, so I think all of those practices and the attitudes that come with them are so key to being an apprentice of Jesus Christ and a player in his world-restoring drama, that if we don't have them, we are deeply deficient in our religion.
Unity and Exclusion
Excommunication and Redemption