So I must admit I feel awkward as a Muslim to write about signs of good Christians. However, as a student of the Bible and an interfaith worker, and given the current national environment, I could not pass up on a post from a Christian blogger that this article is based on.
The original post, titled “10 Signs of a Jesus Follower” by blogger Jesse Gardner appeared several years ago but is perhaps even more relevant in the current environment. He acknowledged there is no set answer.This is by no means a systematic theology, but it is a simple breakdown of the basic teachings of Jesus, taken from his sermon in Matthew 5 through 7.
Here is the adaptation from his post along with my comments.
- A follower of Christ looks for complete satisfaction in heaven.The comfort or peace we have in this life comes from our hope of reward in the next. So if we mourn in this life, if we hunger and thirst, if we are lowly, if we are merciful, if we do not fight, if we endure persecution—in other words, if we do not find complete satisfaction in this life—we have hope for resolution in the hereafter. That’s why faith is an essential part of being a Christian; you are hoping in something that has not yet come. Matthew 5:1-11
My Comments: Actually Matthew 5:1-11 is more about helping the poor, being humble, who strive for justice, who are merciful, have a pure heart and those who work for peace.
“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.
God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”
- A follower of Christ influences the world around them.Specifically, Jesus said that we are to be salt (a preservative) and light (guidance). Those that expect Christians to bury their heads in the sand or hide their beliefs beneath the floorboards have a fundamental misunderstanding of our calling. Matthew 5:17-20
My Comments: Matthew 5:17-20 calls for his followers to be righteous and confirms that Jesus came to fulfill the Torah and prior prophets- something in line with Islamic teachings that the prophets mentioned in Bible and the Qur’an came with the same message, each prophet confirming what other brought.
“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!
- A follower of Christ doesn’t indulge in anger, lust, divorce, lying or retaliation.In fact, Jesus specifically says that we are to love those that do wrong to us. He even goes so far as to say that if someone tries to misuse us, we are to offer them more. Remember, Jesus himself was falsely accused and put to death for doing nothing wrong. Matthew 5:21-48
My Comments: Indeed Jesus told his followers to not indulge in the behaviors noted above, including murder and adultery. In fact he went a step further when admonishing adultery: “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. This is something close to the Islamic teachings of “don’t even go near fornication.”(Qur’an 17:32)
- A follower of Christ is not a hypocrite.We are to give to those in need and pray often, but we should do so without calling attention to ourselves. Anyone giving, praying or fasting in such a way that draws attention to themselves would be like a Pharisee, the group of people that Jesus spoke out against most harshly. Matthew 6:1-18
My Comments: Very true. This is very close to the Islamic teachings of avoiding charity for show and the Hadith that says “give from right hand, so the left does not know it.” This is a lesson for all of us, in particular the evangelicals who claim to follow Jesus but their practices are the opposite- supporting the rich and the powerful, siding with oppressors, opposing immigrants, neglecting the poor and the needy in their politics and so on.
- A follower of Christ does not serve money.This goes back to the idea that our hope is not found in this life. Whatever holds value for us holds our heart. If that value is in our bank account, our hope is placed in the fragile hands of a bank or an earthly institution. Anyone who values money more than people is not following Christ in that regard. Matthew 6:19-24
My Comments: This may be a warning to mega star tele-evangelists.
- A follower of Christ is not consumed by worry.This is overlooked by many who claim to follow Christ. Jesus rebuked his disciples for being afraid in a boat on the stormy seas. If our hope is found in something beyond this life, we should not be shaken no matter the circumstances. This is referred to in other parts of scripture as peace that passes all understanding. Matthew 6:25-34
My Comments: The essence of this passage is that a follower is not consumed by the worldly affairs or “worldly goods”. In short, live a simple life, not the exuberant life style (such as the mega tele-evangelicals). Matthew 6:25 says, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?”
- A follower of Christ deals with problems in his own life before trying to deal with other people’s problems.Far too many people try to pass judgment on someone else while being blind to their own sins. Deal with your own demons before trying to cast them out of someone else. Matthew 7:1-6
My Comments: Right on! One of my favorite passages from the Bible is Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” In other words, there is only One Judge, and that’s not us.
- A follower of Christ trusts in and depends on him.The theme of future hope resurfaces near the end of the sermon. The promise of good to come helps us endure what may be a not-so-good present. Matthew 7:7-11
My Comments: Matthew 7:7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” God is the Giver, never lose hope in Him.
- A follower of Christ treats people the way he would want to be treated. Some have called this the Golden Rule. It could best be summarized as the climax of the sermon; in fact, Jesus himself says that this simple rule encapsulates all of the Law and the Prophets. Interestingly enough, he follows up the Golden Rule by reminding us that it is a path that few take; but it does lead to life. Matthew 7:12-13
My Comments: This is indeed dubbed the Golden Rule! And it is also very true that “it is a path that few take”.
- A follower of Christ is genuine and discerning.Jesus warned about people who would claim to represent him but didn’t actually live as a follower of Christ; he called them ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing. He makes the chilling statement than not all who wear the Christian name tag are actually on the guest list. Further evidence that one of the things Jesus hated most was hypocrisy. Matthew 7:15-27
My Comments: This is at the heart of this whole thing. All those who boast to be the followers of Jesus need to do a self-check: am I indeed following the teachings of Jesus Christ? Am I being humble, not rude, kind to others, kind to neighbors, loving my neighbors and loving my enemies, working for the poor and the oppressed?
As a Muslim, I see nothing in the sermon that I cannot use myself as life lessons. If we can follow these great lessons only half the time , we will be much better off as individuals and as a community.