What Does a Christian Look Like? (Part 2)
A Christian Looks Different
Did you know that Christians have a citizenship in heaven? (Philippians 3:20)
This is just one aspect of the Christian reality that should cause the church to look differently than the world. And this isn’t as much in terms of external appearances, but rather internal truths.
If you haven’t read part one of this series, I’d suggest you do! I introduce the topic in more detail. In a nutshell, however, many people bear the name of “Christian” yet live pretty similarly to the world. But it’s evident in Scripture that a genuine Christian is “born again” and becomes a “new creation” (John 3:3 and 2 Corinthians 5:17). This “new creature,” then, has new wants and new needs. He or she is slowly conforming into the image of Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. In other words, they look different than those in the world.
So, what does this born-again-new-creature look like?
The Beatitudes (Descriptions of a Christian)
Jesus, in his most famous sermon (Matthew 5-7), begins with eight statements that describe the Christian. We call them the “Beatitudes.” They’re not commands, but blessings.
Here they are:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Matthew 5:3-11)
4 Beatitudes Revealing a Genuine Christian (Part 2)
I’ve already went through the first four, so here’s a look at the next four.
A Christian is merciful. Mercy is most clearly seen by God in the gospel. We see God’s mercy in that rather than having us bear the consequence for our sins, he condemned his Son, Jesus, in our place. We didn’t receive what we deserved – we were shown mercy. And the reason for why we were shown this mercy is because God loved us. Mercy must be motivated, or at least influenced, by love. A Christian shows mercy when their friend loses something of theirs, and they don’t angrily demand repayment. A Christian shows mercy when their barista messes up their drink (again), and they ask if it could be remade in a friendly, non-threatening, and kind way. A Christian shows mercy when their friend or family member is the victim of a terrible crime, and they forgive the one at fault. In many ways, mercy is the unnatural response to when we naturally desire revenge and justice. Since a Christian relies on God’s mercy for their life, they do all they can to reflect this great characteristic of the Father.
A Christian is pure in heart. Something is pure when it’s untouched. When Jesus says that a Christian is pure in heart, he means that a Christian’s motives, desires, and intentions are untouched by conscious and willful sin. Certainly, no Christian is without sin. Everyone, no matter how long they’ve been a Christian, can achieve a sinless state while on earth. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t resist sin and grow in Christlikeness. The more a Christian fills their mind with God’s Word and seeks God throughout the day, the more they’ll notice that their heart becomes pure. Their motives, desires, and intentions become less selfish and more selfless – more like Christ. The other way to see this is, a Christian isn’t concerned about a list of dos and don’ts they must abide by, but about coming into accordance with God’s will by becoming more like Jesus – not in actions alone, but through a purity of heart that results in good actions.
A Christian is a peacemaker. Like mercy, another major theme in the gospel is peace. Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” What the writer is getting at is that before Jesus exchanged his righteousness for our unrighteousness and received the consequence for our sin upon himself, we were condemned. There was a natural separation or barrier between us and God – one that God didn’t take pleasure in. Therefore, in the gospel God mended together the separation and removed the barrier, thus bringing peace. A Christian has been so influenced and motivated by this peace they’ve experienced, that whenever they see separations and barriers caused by sin in this life their impulse is to bring peace. So, when they see human-trafficking, addiction, oppression, and unnecessary disunity, they do what they can to see peace. But even more than issues felt on earth, Christians long to see peace between God and their non-Christian friends and family. They will pray earnestly for this and ask God to provide them opportunities to share the gospel with them.
A Christian is persecuted for righteousness’ sake. One of the marks of those in the Bible who love and honour God is persecution. Look at Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Daniel, Mary, the apostles, the early church – this is just a sampling of many more who’ve faced trial after trial for the direct result of their allegiance to God. Now, this persecution isn’t random. It’s specific persecution that comes from a specific reason. A Christian strives for godly righteousness – not only in their lives, but also in the world. They also unashamedly follow and worship Jesus Christ. The world, however, strives for unrighteousness. They don’t want to live God’s way. The world also wouldn’t dream of willingly surrounding all they have to follow some guy, and they’d definitely not worship him. So, when a Christian contradicts the world’s way and strives for godly righteousness while following and worshipping Jesus, they will naturally face persecution. If you stop swimming with the current, turn around, and start swimming, you’ll face resistance. A genuine Christian experiences this and it usually is seen by others.
As I hope you’ve now seen, the Beatitudes give us a great image of what the Christian looks like. We’ve seen (in part one and part two) that the Christian is poor in spirit, mourns, is meek, hungers and thirsts for righteousness, is merciful, is pure in heart, is a peacemaker, and is persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
Does a Christian look like all of these things all the time? No. However, a Christian longs for these things. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is slowly transforming them into Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is the perfect “Christian.” He looks like all of these things all the time.
I’ll leave us with a challenge. Let’s compare these Christian distinctives that we see in the Beatitudes with what we see in our own lives. Perhaps we’ll be encouraged! But, perhaps we’ll think, “I don’t see much comparison…maybe I’m not a Christian!” Don’t let the enemy use this as a way to cause confusion and discouragement. Rather, see the potential “lack” as an opportunity to grow deeper in your relationship with Jesus.