Do We Live Like Good Christians?
Once, in America, I read the question of a fretful reader in a local newspaper, addressed to the author of the Question & Answer Column – popular shrink of the neighborhood, herself a believer and a great friend of her faithful readers. The concerned gentleman had formulated his issue as succinctly as he could, and I am quoting him: “Dear Sally, I have a problem with the community of the new residential area my family has just moved to; we do not go to church, although we consider ourselves real Christians. Our new neighbors keep asking us questions concerning our church-going manners, and they are doing this with inflated curiosity and a certain amount of acrimony in their tone, telling us that the pastor himself was interested to know the reason. Soon, everyone in the community will likely deduce that we are some sort of aliens who look and sound strange because we do not have a habit of going to church without failure every Sunday morning as every one of them does. I am a good family man, loving, and I take good care of my wife and kids. We adore each other and make a wonderful team together. Meanwhile, I have a neighbor across the street that goes to church on a regular basis, but gets drunk every so often so bad that he feels no pain, and when tipsy, he beats his wife and children black and blue, hurling at them all kind of obscenities; he does not want to work, idling away all his time in the streets and bars, his cantankerous character hurting all of us around. Now I would like to ask you a question: who is a better Christian – he or I?”
The moral I am drawing out of this sad and funny story is that being a good Christian does not necessarily mean sitting in God’s house day and night and praying in ardent lacrimal hope that God will help you, or crossing yourself in the street every time you accidentally find yourself in front of a church, or genuflecting before your favorite icons and lighting a couple of candles to your beloved saints, or carrying a huge golden cross around your neck, burdened with sins that have been confessed several times but never redressed by the Lord.
For me, personally, a good Christian is a man or woman who behaves accordingly. Almost everybody in Georgia goes to church and behaves in a ritualistically justified manner, but how many of them do tithing (Matthew 23:23 · Proverbs 3:9-10 · Matthew 5:17) on a regular basis? How many of those believers refuse to come to church empty-handed? Yes, there are some rich people, some of them rich as Croesus, who build churches, and that happens for a reason, too, and dedicate part of their riches to a good cause, but how many of our well-to-do would bring to church one tenth of their profits annually? Some of us think that we are free to sin, and after having indulged in some kind of transgression, feel like rushing to church and asking the Creator to forgive. Then rinse and repeat- again doing the same sort of peccadillo and return to the minster for the same purpose of feigned confession. I said some of us, not all of us, but it is still commonplace!
Being a Good Christian, to my not very religious mind, means being a Good Samaritan, too. I cannot but recognize that Georgians are good helpers. We are always ready to give a hand to those who need our aid. We truly have this in our blood. But, again, anybody can be a Good Samaritan – believer or nonbeliever. I have nothing against the Church as such, I am not saying I never go to church, but I think it has nothing to do with being a Good Samaritan. Can the church-going drunkard from my anecdote ever be a Good Samaritan? No, he can’t! How about our good family man from the same episode? Yes, he can! That is the entire quintessence of this piece, trying to prove that it is not the church that will help one to be a good Christian, but our own good self, although the Church can be part of our fine upbringing, too. The Church has a role, of course, but our nature and rearing is no less a factor. In a word, living the life of a good Christian is not only a God-given delight, but also a responsibility before God, the nation, society, church, family and our own selves. Are we ready for a responsibility of that magnitude?
By Nugzar Ruhadze