Sunday, December 18, 2005

Confessions of a noun-Christian

As any adult can verify from personal experience, words change meanings over time as their contemporary usage changes. As fewer and fewer people use the word “skater“ to describe someone who roller skates (as opposed to rollerblading or skateboarding), so fewer and fewer people use the word “Christian” to simply describe someone who is Christlike. In fact, most of us probably have never considered that the two words should be virtually synonymous.

To the English teachers reading this, I know--the former is most often used as a noun, while the latter is an adjective. But think about this for a moment—wouldn’t the term “Christian” be more meaningful when used as an adjective, rather than a noun? Shouldn’t a Christian be able to be described and identified primarily by his Christlike behavior? Isn’t that what the whole “salt, light, and a city set on a hill” passage is all about? What’s the point of “classifying” someone as a Christian who does not act “Christian?”

Before Christians were first called such in Antioch, they did exist in the eyes of God and men without that appellation. These people were described simply as disciples, or followers of the Lord. A Christ-follower, or disciple of Jesus, ought to be one and the same as a Christian. In fact, it would be a misuse of the term “Christian” to apply it to someone who did not at least attempt to pattern his life from top to bottom—including thoughts, words, and actions—after the Master.

So it turns out that “Christlike” is the forgotten synonym for “Christian,” and where we find a Christian in name (used as a noun), we ought to find a Christlike person in deed where “Christian” can be used as an adjective to describe him. This means a person called a Christian should not engage in unchristian activities. Gossip, slander, and backbiting should be put away from our lips. Every word spoken should be done with the motivation to encourage someone in Christ or bring them to Him.

We can probably all attest to the fact that this is not always the case. As C.S. Lewis so brilliantly pointed out, humans almost instinctively know right from wrong, and still as instinctively, usually choose the latter.

Rather than write in the safety of the third person, I’ll take a big dose of this medicine by asking myself how many years I’ve been a noun-Christian without necessarily being an adjective-Christian? Have I always made a concerted effort to emulate Christ’s character traits such as love, compassion, forgiveness, and patience? It’s my life’s regret that I can’t answer in the affirmative. But I can say that I want it to be the primary focus of my life, now--to pattern my life after the One with whom we have to do.

I will no doubt fail at it miserably on a daily basis. But I want to become more like the master, not just sing the old song every once in awhile. I want the word “Christian” to mean more than just the fact that I’ve obeyed a few rudimentary things. I don’t want to use it so much as a noun, but as an adjective. Sure, I’m a Christian. But I hope to be more than that and actually be Christian.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

New sheet music available for download

My lovely wife sat down at the computer the other day with a tune in her head and wrote a beautiful little song from Psalms 14 and 15. I downloaded Finale (notation software) for the Mac and spent a couple days learning it and working out the four-part harmony. Diane handled all of the timing, melody, and alto harmonization.

If anyone is interested in giving it a shot for your congregational singing, here is the sheet music, and here is a computer generated MP3 file to help get the tune and the rhythm. Have fun with it!

Here are the words:

Psalms 14 and 14

Oh Lord, who will bow before you?
The fool says there's no God
He turns to his own way
and falls into the darkness
In this world

So let me be a light
Help me shine so bright
Help me speak the truth in the darkness
One who glorifies
And will testify
With a humble heart for the Lord

Oh Lord, who can stand before you?
We know you look from heaven
To see if we seek you
And fall down on our knees
In this world


Oh Lord, we humbly bow before you
Please help us do your will
Be our guide and give us strength
So we'll never be shaken
In this world


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