Most Christians struggle with the question of what it means to be a Christian in the eyes of the church, in the eyes of fellow Christians and non-Christians. They are at pains to create the right impression of what a good Christian ought to do, say, think and behave. Little do they understand that in the eyes of our Lord, these are not genuine spiritual questions but facile questions of the world.
The spiritual journey of man begins when we ask questions that are beyond our ability or powers to answer and only through constant struggle, unceasing wrestling with God will we find an answer that speaks to our innermost being. So deep down, when a surface Christian asks what he/she should do to appear like a good, Godly Christian, he/she is ultimately seeking his/her own happiness and trying to fit his/her life into the visible realm of a typical Christian family. In other words, these people are trying to put on what can be seen from the outside as Christian but internally they are just a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
The only litmus test to ascertain whether a person is a genuine Christian and a disciple of Christ is the one test which our Lord Jesus gave in John 13:25: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” That is the true mark of a Christian. Yet there is a great paradox in Jesus’ command: “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He is saying we are to love unconditionally one another and love with the same intensity, the same passion with which He loved us (“As I have loved you.”).
But we all know that this type of love will always be tested: True genuine love that is flowing naturally from an eternal spring can only occur when we have Christ in us and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. (1 John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers…This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.”) All other attempts to live a life of genuine love will be based on our fleshly desire to fulfill a duty, an obligation, an external rule that has no true appeal to our own selfish hearts.
So Jesus is saying that we have to love one another and yet at the same time, in order to do that in practice, we have to clean up our own hearts, give up the fleshly desire to be a happy Christian or the notion that God’s purpose in putting us on earth is for us to be “happy” Christians living in comfortable homes, doing some church work and attending church regularly. (I can well imagine a Christian who sacrifices his life for another with deep joy and peace in his heart but I find it hard to imagine a Christian “happily” sacrificing his life for another.)
Just look at what the true Christians in the Scriptures went through: Paul, Daniel, Jacob, Joseph, Elijah and all the apostles of Jesus. Did they live a comfortable, orderly life of getting cut-and-dried answers to their spiritual problems and dilemmas by asking their pastors, reading some inspiring books, attending a prayer rally or surfing some Christian sites? Were they superficially asking themselves “am I in the right books of God?” or “Is my church in the right standing with God?” and seeking these answers through external appearances and external approval from their fellow Christians? I really wonder had they been given all the technology and the resources in the world in their time whether they will take the quick-and-easy way out or would they still experience their dark nights of the soul regardless of the external environment. Would they seek to impress the public and their fellow Christians or would they seek direct answers from God through prayerful dialogue and internal baptism of fire?
The reason why Christians today no longer have any genuine arguments with God anymore is because our consciences are no longer sensitive, no longer shocked by the horrors of sin, of hatred and of violence that is burning human society each day. We have become so immune to the horror and senselessness of sin to the extent that we can no longer distinguish between right from wrong in a world where wrong is puffed up as right and right is brushed off as wrong.
The only recompense (our sacrificial payment to the Lord for our immoral indifference) is to go back to the Lord and tell Him how we feel, our hurts, frustrations of not being able to love unconditionally and disgust with our sinful hearts. And then be quiet, like Job at the end of his dialogue with God, and wait for Him to provide the peace that passeth all understanding, the vision that puts every jigsaw puzzle, every wrong in its rightful place. And this epiphany of the soul through wrestling with God is the whole essence of being a Christian before God. By allowing Him to work through our inner struggles, we are allowing Him to melt away the selfishness, the things of the flesh in us. And through this melting process, we are refined in the way which He wants to refine us.