Some people think that being born in the UK, a so-called “Christian Country”, makes them into a “Christian”. Others think that trying to behave in an honest, upright and respectable manner makes them “Christian”. Yet others may think that some outward signs like regular church attendance, saying prayers, being baptised or confirmed, wearing a crucifix, or whatever, will see them all right.
Christians are not, in fact, “good” people at all … they are “sinners”! (“Sin” being an unfashionable word, since it brings an unwelcome reminder that God’s standards do not shift with the passing of time.) The Bible says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10); and even “all our righteous acts are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). So if you think you’re not a sinner then you’re clearly out of step with the word of God expressed in the Bible.
Many of us really do want to be good: to feel at peace with ourselves, and to do right by other people. But, like “New Year Resolutions”, the best of intentions don’t last very long. And the harder we try, the more likely we are to fall victim to sanctimonious pride, which makes us appear ugly to other people even when we can’t see it in ourselves. So, if we can’t make ourselves good enough, if even our best efforts are tainted by selfishness and hypocrisy, what then can we do to be saved? Isn’t it unfair of God to expect us to live up to a standard that he knows is impossible for us?
The answer is that God had already anticipated the problem, and the whole of the Bible’s Old Testament was building up to the solution. God’s holiness demanded justice, but God’s love drove him to accept the punishment himself. Taking the form of a human being, as Jesus of Nazareth, he accepted the punishment that should rightfully have fallen on each one of us. Forgiveness is ours for the taking if only we (i) recognise our need for it, and (ii) accept Jesus, the Messiah/Christ, as our own personal saviour. A “Christian” is someone, young or old, rich or poor, female or male, clever or stupid, staid or trendy, arty or scientific, bold or shy, handsome or ugly, normal or eccentric, who has done just that.