A common challenge faces each of us as individual Christians and all of us collectively as a congregation of Christians. This challenge causes each of us to struggle as a person in Christ and as a part of a congregation dedicated to Christ. What challenge? It is understanding that the questions of "who we are" and "what we are" are different questions. To treat the "who" and the "what" questions as if they are identical questions is to invite painful crises into our spiritual objectives.

Look at the "who" question from the all too common view of "who" we say we are. The problem is created when our dedication to "who we say we are" differs from our dedication to God's objectives in His people. If we are not quite careful, human determinations of "faithfulness" may be based on our concerns instead of God's concerns. Giving "approval" may be more concerned about our standards than God's standards. It may have more focused on "our" criteria than God's forgiveness and mercy.

An example? Sometimes we can be more concerned about being "Church of Christ" than we are concerned about being Christian. Question: "Speaking religiously, who are you?" Answer: "I am Church of Christ."

It is impossible to imagine Peter, Paul, Silas, Timothy, Titus, Lydia, Philip's daughters, Phoebe, Dorcas, or Aquila and Priscilla spiritual identifying themselves as "Church of Christ" to those inquiring about their spiritual identity. It is biblical to imagine each of them referring to themselves as Jesus Christ's disciples, saints, those redeemed by Jesus Christ, those "called out" by God through Jesus Christ, or Christians.

Today those who are dedicated to being "Church of Christ" frequently identify themselves by referring to "Church of Christ" things and ways. Those things and ways may or may not be God's things and ways.

We have a rich, wonderful spiritual heritage. That heritage is based on seeking to be God's people and seeking salvation in Jesus Christ's atonement. It is a heritage that has been unafraid to understand the Bible. It is a heritage that began as the commitment to be "Christians only." It is a heritage that not only was willing to examine God's full teachings, but a heritage that was willing to make spiritual corrections when God's objectives were better understood. It is a heritage that always placed ultimate and final leadership in God's hands as He directed us through Jesus Christ.

To understand what we are, a person must know who God is, who Jesus Christ is, who the Spirit is, and the message of the Bible. Never be content to be "Church of Christ." May your life's objective in all its aspects be this: "I am a Christian. That is all I want to be. I want God through Jesus Christ, His Spirit, and His word to control my life."

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 2 February 2003

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