Four characteristics of being a Christian

Wally Wang

Dr Wally Wang, Director of Chinese Program and Lecturer in Christian Thought

If someone were to ask you what a Christian should be like, the obvious answer is to be like Jesus. There are characteristics that set Christians apart.

Paul always prays to God for the congregations that he has established. From what Paul prays we can get a glimpse of what a Christian should be like. In Philippians 1:9-10, his prayer for the Philippians gives us insight into this.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…

The first thing that Paul prays for is that their love will multiply, that they should love each other more deeply. This implies that their mutual love is not just affection towards one another but more importantly the commitment to seek the best for one another. In other words, as we love each other, we promise that we stand beside people in their times of need as well as in the times of joy and that we seek every opportunity to help each other to become what God intends each one of us to be.

The second thing that Paul prays is that their knowledge and insight will increase. Knowledge refers to moral discernment and insight refers to the knowledge of God’s will. Paul prays that they will use this knowledge to live out the gospel within the world. In other words, knowledge and insight are not intended to satisfy their cognitive curiosity but equip them to walk in the way of God. In the same way, we should study the Holy Scriptures diligently, not just for the sake of preparing sermons or writing up assignments but also for the sake of hearing God’s commands so that we can live as a faithful servant pleasing to our Lord.

The third thing that Paul prays is that they should be able to discern what is really worthy of their full attention. Paul implies that not all things are important to the being of a Christian. Some of them are quite peripheral and some of them are at the centre. This reminds us that as evangelical Christians, we should hold firm to the core foundations of our faith. Foundational beliefs that are non-negotiable. However, in other aspects that relate to denominational-specific practices, there is room for compromise so that we can cooperate in witnessing the good news.

And finally, Paul prays that the Philippians can be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. Paul does not mean that they can become sinless now. Instead, Paul wants them to be pure in motive in dealing with brothers and sisters so that they will not be the cause for the others to stumble. This reminds us that we are living under the expectation of Christ’s return. We should not lose sight of our true identity as God’s children and because of that, our relationship with other believers, brothers and sisters in the household of God, will be deeply impacted. Because of God’s love for us, we can love and treat each other with a pure heart.