I Am A Christian
Genevieve Holland

I am a Christian.

All of us say these words, all of us call ourselves by the name of our Lord, but are we worthy of the name? What have we done, what feats of virtue have we accomplished, to merit calling ourselves Christians? Where is our faith, that faith which is the hallmark of a true Christian? In what way have we emulated the true Christians of old, Christians in deed as well as in word, whose Christianity was everything to them?

When the Christians of old, enduring martyrdom for their confession of the Faith, were asked their names by the torturers, they answered, "I am a Christian." When asked if they were slave or free, they replied, "I am a Christian. I am a slave of Christ." When asked of their families and parentage, they said, "I am a Christian. God is my Father; the Church, my Mother; the saints, my brothers and sisters." When asked by their puzzled torturers how they could reject life and honor for death and dishonor, they explained, "We are Christians. Our sole desire is to die for Christ that we may reign eternally with Him."

The Christians of old, the saints, performed exalted feats of virtue and endurance for the sake of and through the power of Christ's name. What have I done? What have I done to merit calling myself a Christian? What struggles and battles have I to show my sincerity?

The saints welcomed torture and death for making the sign of the Cross; I hesitate to thank God for my meal in public.

They endured hunger and thirst for the Gospel's sake; I complain about fasting for a month.

They gave away the last of their sustenance for the sake of the One Whose Name they bore; I am reluctant to surrender even one penny.

A true Christian has faith enough to move mountains; my faith is weak, smaller than a mustard seed.

A Christian truly loves his neighbor and serves him, even at cost to himself; I scorn my neighbor, living only for myself.

A Christian gladly obeys our Lord's command to pray unceasingly; I struggle to say morning and evening prayers.

A Christian yearns with all his heart to spend every moment worshipping his Creator; I begrudge every moment not spent satisfying my own desires.

And I call myself a Christian.

The Fathers teach that it is not our success in the Christian life, but our effort which God sees and values; that it doesn't matter so much that we fall, but that we get up, repent, and try again, each time we stumble. It is the trying again; the repeated effort and struggle; the faith which makes a man continue to fight and not despair; the trust in God's mercy; the hope of eternal life, that make a Christian. I call myself a Christian, but do I fulfill these requirements? Do I have efforts and struggles to show? Or do I fall and stay down, wallowing in filth and despair, not even aware of my depravity?

Millions of faithful have died for the name of Christ, the name which I so carelessly dishonor, and their blood adorns the title of Christian with more nobility and beauty than the richest gems or the most prestigious medals. The title of Christian is honor enough to lift the head of the most wretched beggar, and shame enough, if the inherent vow of Christ-likeness is unfulfilled, to bow the head of the most powerful king.

So, at the same time as I raise my head because of the dignity of the name of Christian, I prostrate myself to the earth in shame because of my unworthiness.

And yet - all of us are unworthy. The greatest of the saints was not truly worthy to bear Christ's name. "Be ye perfect," we are told, and not one man ever born, save Christ Jesus Himself, the God-man, has completely fulfilled this commandment.

Yet, I am a Christian. I am a Christian, not through any virtue or merit of my own, but through God's infinite love, grace, and mercy, and His acceptance of my struggles, poor as they are. Because of His care for me, I may truthfully and proudly and humbly cry:

I am a Christian!

I Cor 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. {10} But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.