Where Logic Meets Love

What Kind of Christian Am I? Life Lessons from a Stranger's Funeral

Sunday, September 4, 2011

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What Kind of Christian Am I? Life Lessons from a Stranger's Funeral | Faith Permeating Life

Yesterday I went to the funeral of someone I'd never met.

He was the husband of someone who works at my college, whom I don't know that well either, but I went to support her and because several other people from my office were going as well.

I know that everyone is always spoken highly of at their funeral, but you could tell from the stories shared that this man was truly an outstanding individual. His sister said that if you wanted to know what he was like, just pick up a Bible and read 1 Corinthians 13. As a teenager, he came home without a shirt on one day and said he'd literally given a man the shirt off his back because "he had no shirt," as if it were the simplest thing to do. He even brought home a little boy, who was begging on the street because his family had abandoned him, and convinced his family to adopt him. (Yet he was humble about this -- I found out later that his wife didn't know until he was on his deathbed that this young man was not her husband's biological brother.)

His family members said he didn't make quick judgments about anything. He listened to other people's opinions. He thought about them. He tried to keep an open mind and heart always. If you asked him his opinion about anything, he was likely to say, "It depends."

Again and again his family members said that it came down to love. He loved everyone and everything. He didn't hate anything, not even the cancer that killed him -- he saw no reason to hate.

Sometimes it's hard to know what being Christian, what being Christ-like means until you see it actually lived out in another person.

If we accept that it's impossible to literally follow everything in the Bible, we are faced with a choice of where to place our focus. There are hundreds and hundreds of definitions of what it means to be a Christian, or more accurately, hundreds of opinions on "what you would do if you were really Christian." And I don't think it's possible -- or even necessary -- to definitively say whose beliefs are right and wrong.

What this funeral reminded me was why I choose to call myself a liberal Catholic and to place my focus on social justice, human rights, tolerance, and unconditional love over following anyone's strict guidelines on morality.

Because I can't imagine someone getting up at my funeral and saying, "She was such a good Christian; look at how she shut down that abortion clinic."

I can't imagine being remembered as, "She was such a good Christian; she made sure only baptized Catholics ever took communion."

I don't ever want someone to say, "She was such a good Christian; she stopped couples from getting married if the Catholic Church said they shouldn't."

I'm not sure anyone will ever say that I gave the shirt off my back, but that is the kind of Christian example that I'm working toward. One that is about love and acceptance, not about making others conform to a moral code.

In this, my main role model has been my maternal grandmother, who passed away six years ago. She was a living model of Christ if I ever saw one, someone whose home was open to anyone, anytime, and who cared deeply and fiercely about other people. She worked in Child Protective Services, which is not an easy thing to do, but that's where her heart was: serving others. She lived the Gospel at its core -- love, love, love.

Would anyone say she was not a true Christian because she didn't make it to church every single week?

Sure they would. But that's not the definition I want to live by.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
John 13:34-35

7 comments:

  1. What a great post. I discovered you through 20sb and I'm really enjoying your blog. I'm a liberal Catholic myself, and this is some great food for thought. My sympathies to your coworker- it sounds like she lost a wonderful husband.

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  2. @Katie
    Thanks! Glad you found my blog! I love connecting with other bloggers who consider themselves liberal Catholics; it seems like most self-proclaimed "Catholic bloggers" are super-conservative, so it can be a bit lonely sometimes :)

    I can't imagine the grief this woman is facing right now, but I also think that she has a sense of peace now that the long uncertainty of illness is over. I hope she knows how many lives her husband touched--even those (like me) who never met him.

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  3. This post was amazing. I was not really raised in any church, and I just married my husband, who comes from a strong Presbyterian family. One of my personal journeys as we begin marriage has been figuring out how my faith fits in to his. And I loved reading this post. Thank you so much!

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  4. @Katie
    Thank you for taking the time to comment! I'm glad you got something from this post. Good for you for being open to your husband's faith and wanting to find a way to understand how your backgrounds fit together. Congrats on your marriage and good luck to you!

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  5. Amazing post! I definitely believe that there is a differnce from being Christian and being Christ-like, and I personally have more admiration for the later. I'd rather be considered a good person than an adhering Christian. Also, I love the term liberal Catholic...I might have to start calling myself that.

    By the way, I see that you're a member of 20 Something Bloggers - I'm still awaiting approval, but I would love to connect on there.

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  6. @analyfe
    I hadn't thought about Christian and Christ-like as meaning different things, but that's a really interesting way to make the distinction I was trying to describe here. Rather than trying to ascribe to any one person's definition of "Christian," you can get right to the heart of it by saying you're trying to be "Christ-like" instead. Which is what "Christian" *should* mean, I think, but it's kind of been hijacked to mean other things. Really interesting.

    Definitely connect with me on 20SB once you're all set up there!

    ReplyDelete

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