I like Bishop Will Willimon’s answer to that in a video he did for one of the Disciple Bible Study Program. A Christian is one who has heard and believed the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Very simple, some might say over simplified. But if I am to try to cast a net that says who is and who isn’t a Christian, then, the broader, more simple the definition the better. In other words, it’s not up to me to judge. If one claims to be a Christian, I must accept that. I don’t have to agree with their theology…I might not even like them, but I can’t really question their FAITH.
I do not like the things fundamentalists stand for, but I can’t question whether or not they are Christian. They say they are and I accept it. But when a fundie (no insult intended, using a term they sometimes use for themselves) disagrees with me, they question how “true” my faith is. “You’re not a REAL Christian.”
I do not agree with some interpretations of Scripture–especially those that are trying to either drive us back under the law or those that are trying to force Christianity into a new set of laws, but those who adhere to such understandings are still Christian if they put their faith in Christ to save them, no matter how much I disagree. But let me express my feelings that we are saved by grace, not by our works and then actually treat people that way and I’ll get an earful of how I’m deceived and not a “real” Christian.
I am a fan of not judging, especially judging while hiding behind, “I’m not judging you, I’m just telling you what the Bible says–IT is judging you!”
Yet even those who (to me) seem to be the most judgmental and condemning can’t simply be dismissed as non-Christian, it makes him or her someone who disagrees with me, we can sort it out in haven. But those who find my acceptance of people on the margins of our faith to be wrong, judge me as (according to my cousin yesterday when I showed support of the Gay and Lesbian Community) being in Sodom, about to be destroyed, or being elite and deceived.
The most dangerous place we can find ourselves is trying to determine who is and who isn’t a “REAL” Christian. Judging that is the same as us trying to determine someone else’s eternal destination. The way I read the Bible, that task remains only in Jesus’ hands. But we take it to a new level when we not only judge someone as not “really” Christian, but we demonize them as well.
I am a Bible believing, evangelical minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just because I don’t agree with you on all things religious does not make us enemies. It does not make one of us “in” and the other “out.” We must see how wide the arms of Jesus were when he stretched them out and died for us all.
I’ll not judge you, even when we disagree. I will not demonize you. Promise.