What does a Christian look like?
At times, it is hard to spot a Christian by their appearance. A cross necklace or a ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ bracelet may help, but you’re a Christian regardless of what you wear.
That last sentence escaped me last Friday afternoon, as I desperately pulled out my pre-pandemic Sunday best and tried to find an outfit that would make me look like a good Christian for Synod. Even though I was elected to be Synod representative in 2020, this would be my first Synod, and I did not want to make any mistakes.
It did not help my endeavours when I searched for ‘Christian person’ and three famous people were the first image results: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Pope Francis. I wasn’t convinced that any of their outfits would assist me in making a good first impression.
Better yet, I was surprised when I changed that search to woman, and I did not find an outfit that closely replicated anything in my closet. After three and a half years of regularly attending church, I had nothing that made me look like a good Christian.
I placed all my fears surrounding whether I would represent this church at the 80th Synod for the Diocese of Brisbane correctly into my outfit. I had this silly idea in my head that if I looked like a Christian, I would have the right answers to the questions embedded within the motions at Synod.
The Anglican Diocese of Brisbane has released mission values that help identify a Christian and their mission. These include:
Imaginative and creative
I made the mistake of looking over those values before Synod and felt I did not quite meet the definition of any of those values. I wondered if any of my family or friends would describe me as any of those things, and I concluded that most would use the phrases ‘chatty’ or ‘passionate’ or ‘someone who should think before they speak’ before they used any of those words. However, I could clearly think of people in our church that fit that description. Those people all looked like Christians to me.
One of the key elements of being a Christian, I’ve always thought, was our values. We love God and each other, and our actions are built on a foundation of faith. I found myself assuming, quite naively, that being a Christian meant that you had to believe certain things and agree on certain points. After twenty-nine motions and hours of debate about nuances in larger spiritual, political, and practical concerns in the church and wider community, I had lost any part of that assumption. We all believed in the same God, and yet all had different ideas to find the best way to honour God in the community.
At all times, however, I was acutely aware that every single person in that room wholeheartedly believed that their way forward was the best way. It was through listening to their perspectives that I came to challenge my understanding about what a Christian believed. Christians do not have one rigid belief system, and if I wanted to look like a Christian, I needed to listen to every diverse voice in our community.
After this weekend at Synod, I believe I have a better understanding of who is a Christian. Christians are trying to understand the teachings of Jesus and the Word of God and put it into practice in their own lives. Christians are trying to show the world that love is patient and kind (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Christians are trying to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with their God (Micah 6:8). Christians may show their love for God in a million different ways and may not go about showing their love in the same way that I would.
It is important to listen to all those voices. I learnt at Synod that by listening to others, I might just learn a thing or two about Christianity and get one step closer to looking like a Christian.
Parish Synod Representative