Wanted: An answer to Clara's question
Recently I was reading to Clara, my three-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter. The book was a colorful little title from our Quaker meetinghouse’s nursery room. Clara was sitting on my lap engrossed.
I was unfamiliar with book about a mean and greedy king, and the more I got into its story the more I realized I was stepping into a theological thicket.
As the story came to its happy conclusion, the once selfish king became “kind and good.” The book has him becoming a “Christian.”
Where upon Clara turned to me and posed the obvious question: “What’s a Christian?"
I was literally struck dumb. I turned to a friend who was with me and suggested that she answer the question.
She too passed on answering.
And so the question was left hanging for us, for Clara and I hope, dear reader, for you.
A few days later, I shared this experience with my Bible Study class, an eclectic, unpredictable and collegial group. Most, but not all, consider themselves Christians.
One member, who happens to be a retired pastor, said I should have advised Clara, “You’ll know a Christian when you see one.”
I responded that with Clara that would simply invite more questions such as “What do I look for?”
Again, I would feel unqualified to answer.
What if she sees “Christian evidence” but the person turns out to be Jew or a Buddhist or a Muslim or, (heaven forbid!) an atheist or a secular humanist…
What if the person is deeply, profoundly NOT a Christian? Or perhaps only a “part-Christian.”
Oh, and by the way, what’s a Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist and secular humanist?
And so forth….
Believe me, these questions are not beyond Clara’s asking.
There’s another question: Can you identify Christians by simply asking them if they are Christians?
If they say “Yes” can you be sure? Are they? If so, why? What if they do “un-Christian things”?
Which takes us back to square one: What is a Christian?