What makes a Christian? There are many places to go to find that answer, but my favorite is Colossians 3. Skipping over v.1-4 for now Colossians 3:5-9 illustrates what the Christian life does not look like. Following that we see the picture of a Christian in v.12-17. A Christian should strive to be merciful, kind, humble, meek, patient, caring, and forgiving, loving, peaceful, and thankful. However, these characteristics alone do not make one a Christian. They are good morals, and certainly make for a good person, but Christianity is more than just morals.
Let’s go back to Colossians 3:1-4. Paul clearly explains a transitioning of self by way of the cross. In Romans 6:1-11 he describes the same thing in more detail. To summarize what Paul says in both of these sections – Christians have been crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20), burying the old self through the watery grave of immersion, and raised as a new creation in newness of life. A life alive and hidden with Christ in God. Christianity is more than just being a good person.
The point is, we can teach morals (and should teach morals), but if we teach morals without the cross, we are not teaching Christianity. The cross is the power of salvation. (Rom 1:16) We should wake up every morning with the desire to put on the characteristics Paul mentions in Colossians 3:12-17, but we should never lose sight of the cross. Though it may be foolishness to the world, to Christians it is the power of God. (I Cor 1:18)
However, I want to make this point as well – Though Christianity is more than just morals, Christianity is also more than just law keeping. Consider the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22. He was faced with a moral dilemma. He had kept all the commandments, but his heart was not in the right place. One of the beauties of Christianity is a union of obedience and morality. A good person doesn’t equal a Christian just as a good rule follower doesn’t equal a Christian. A Christian is a combination of the two.
Let us consider this in our own lives.