I received this tweeted response to my last post:
halm: @bobmueller ah, so either I am not a Christian, or you haven’t mastered arithmetic.
@halm is my brother, and his comment indicates that I probably need to better explain myself.
My parents raised me and my brother as Lutherans. Our family has a long Lutheran tradition, dating back to the late 1800s when our great-grandmother was a charter member of St. Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Austin Texas. The tradition actually goes farther back; our German ancestors were Evangelical Lutherans in the Old Country.
Throughout my youth, I attended St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Marietta, Ohio. But for me, that attendance was compelled by my parents, not voluntary because I wanted to go and worship God and learn how to live anything like a holy life. I was active in the Youth Group there, but it was hardly for anything approaching a holy reason, believe me. There were some very cute girls in our youth group.
I believe that living a Christian life has less to do with what building you worship in or the label of your denomination than it does with what’s in your heart. Walking a Christian walk or leading a Christian life is a conscious decision. It means that you accept that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and that He died on the Cross for your sins—past, present and future, and that you confess those sins to Him. It’s a decision I made some 15 years ago during an Easter drama at West Broad Church of the Nazarene, and a decision I later affirmed through baptism at that same church. To me, that Easter weekend represents the beginning of my Christian life.
I can’t begin to know what’s in the hearts of other people. I believe that singing songs and repeating prayers in a pretty building don’t necessarily make you a Christian any more than piling a bunch of parts in a garage makes the pile a car. Being a Christian is an active decision, not an accident of genealogy. I’m not saying that the Church of the Nazarene is the only way to heaven. But a denominational label doesn’t make you Christian if your heart’s not in it.