I'm a Christian, at least that is who I claim to be. To actually be a Christian, however, I must be a follower of Christ and believe in Jesus and what He taught. Saying I believe is the easy part. Following what He taught is where it becomes difficult. That's because following requires my obedience.
While some of what Jesus taught is easy to embrace, many of His teachings are not so easy to embrace. But to be a real Christian I have to both believe and obey everything He taught; I can't just pick and choose the easy parts then ignore the hard parts.
I think one of Jesus' most difficult teachings to live out is "love your enemy". Jesus said this:
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.
Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you."
~Luke 6:27-38, ESV
After reading this passage this morning, I considered my obligation to obedience with regards to my claim to Christianity. I thought about my enemy. I asked myself, "Who is my enemy?" Jesus defined my enemy. He said my enemy is anyone who hates me, curses me, abuses me, strikes me on my cheek, and takes from me.
I admit, even as I write this post, I'm not eager to obey this "love your enemy" teaching of Jesus. As I think about those individuals who abused me and took my innocence from me when I was a child, and as I think about groups of people who currently hate and are killing each other around the world, I find myself quickly justifying hating back and seeking revenge. But I also recognize how my thoughts in this moment are the complete opposite of His thoughts. So, how is it, then, that I call myself a Christian? If I really am a Christian I have to embrace all of Him, even the tough stuff, even the part of Him that says I must love my enemy.
To love my enemy means to welcome him. That seems impossible! How do I welcome the one who hates, curses, abuses, strikes, and takes from me? But Jesus did. He practiced what He preached as an example to show me that it is possible. If He was willing to be an example of His teachings, He must be willing to help me be obedient to His teachings.
Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13, ESV). I think if Christ can strengthen Paul to do all things then He can strengthen me to do all things. And I think the words "all things" include loving my enemy. So as I type these words I am asking Jesus to strengthen me—to help me love my enemy.
Am I really a Christian? Though I am not yet perfected as a follower of Christ, I am trying to be a genuine Christian. I do love and believe in Jesus. I believe what He taught. And I have a desire to be obedient. I just need His help. If I let Him help me I can be who I say I am.