Over the past four months as things have unfolded (and life kind of fell apart… just beginning to put it all back together), a lot of people openly speculated as to whether I was still a follower of Jesus. People offered to pray for my reconciliation with Jesus, my salvation, etc. As I made clear in this post here, I am still, have always been (since I was 17) and will always be a follower of Jesus Christ. While I am sure these people are well-intentioned, the implication is a bit offensive.
As a Christian, my sin is not what keep me from following and loving Jesus… it is what draws me to the cross again and again. I wish I didn’t sin… I strive to sin less and to embrace perfect obedience… and I do so knowing that I will fail, trusting in the cross. I am reconciled and restored to Jesus… and I will follow Him with all that I’ve got!
I became a Christian when I was 17 ((I grew up in a Conservative Jewish family) and have found my spiritual home within the evangelical world for the most part (with some influence from our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters, and even our emerging brothers and sisters).
So people have been asking me, “now that you aren’t an evangelical, what are you?”
I am not sure why they assume I am not an evangelical. Perhaps it is because there are not many Jewish, gay, liberal evangelical Christians out there… I guess that is understandable.
But, I AM STILL AND EVANGELICAL and proud to be one.
What is an evangelical?
Mark Noll and David Bebbington have defined the term this way:
An evangelical is a Christian Protestant for whom the central ideas are the leading authority of Scripture, the necessity of personal conversion, the centrality of the death of Christ on the cross as a substitutionary atonement, and the importance of a life of active following Jesus, seen in such things as Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, and deeds of compassion and justice.
I think that is a pretty good summary of classic evangelicalism:
1. Authority and centrality of the Bible as authoritative.
2. Necessity of conversion and a personal relationship with Christ.
3. Centrality of the Cross of Christ.
4. Importance of Discipleship through the local church.
I would also add a fifth tenant:
5. Consistent with historical, orthodox Christianity as found in the Apostles’s & Nicean Creeds.
So why am I an evangelical?
Because those five things are true of my faith and I understanding of how one lives out Christianity.
Will I always agree with other evangelicals about specific interpretive or hermeneutical issues when it comes to scripture? Nope. But we can always agree that scripture is our norming authority.
Will I always agree with other evangelicals when it comes to what discipleship looks like? How issues like community and justice and environmentalism and the local church play into that? Nope. But we can agree that discipleship is central to what it means to follow Jesus.
So… while perhaps a rare breed, I am a Jewish, gay, democrat, liberal evangelical Christian.
Which of those identities is primary? Christian. And my Christianity informs all the others.