How is a Christian Made?
Jan 2, 2015 1858
Desmond Tutu is the retired Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and social rights activist who became internationally known in the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid. He has been active in the defence of human rights and has campaigned for the oppressed.
He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984; the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism in 1986; the Pacem in Terris Award in 1987; the Sydney Peace Prize in 1999; the Ghandi Peace Prize in 2007; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
How does a man who has influenced his nation and the world for good come to be? How do you make a Christian? And to clarify, I am not essentially talking here about the process of justification by grace; I am talking about our role in this world as channels of that grace.
Desmond was asked by the BBC to identify the defining moment in his life. He spoke of the day he and his mother were walking down the street. Tutu was nine years old. A tall white man dressed in a black suit came towards them. In the days of apartheid, when a black person and a white person met while walking on a footpath, the black person was expected to step into the gutter to allow the white person to pass and nod their head as a gesture of respect. But this day, before a young Tutu and his mother could step off the sidewalk the white man stepped off the sidewalk and, as my mother and I passed, tipped his hat in a gesture of respect to her!
The white man was Trevor Huddleston, an Anglican priest who was bitterly opposed to apartheid. It changed Tutu’s life. When his mother told him that Trevor Huddleston had stepped off the sidewalk because he was a man of God Tutu found his calling. “When she told me that he was an Anglican priest I decided there and then that I wanted to be an Anglican priest too. And what is more, I wanted to be a man of God” said Tutu.
Christianity first arose and grew as a radical challenge to the values of this world – a challenge that pointed people to the Lamb of God and to His kingdom. Somehow, too many have forgotten this and have embraced Christianity merely as an intellectual, esoteric, spiritual exercise.
But the righteousness of God of which the gospel speaks, while always originating in and belonging entirely to Christ, must also break into this world. The practical outworking of the righteousness of God is poured out into this world through the lives and words of people who have chosen to follow Christ. And wherever it goes it has the power to stun the blind into sight, to lead the selfish into service, to turn masters into servants.
That’s how the Great Gospel Commission was meant to conquer the world. That’s how the cross of Jesus must be lifted high.
True Christians are essentially not made through a series of Bible studies or theological training. True Christians are essentially not made through the mastery of spiritual disciplines. True Christians are not made by belonging to this church or that.
So how are Christians made? True Christians are made when those who have chosen to follow Christ surrender to him in such a way that Christ is able to pour out his message through their lives into the lives of others. That’s what Huddleston did for the young Desmond Tutu.
It has always been the same. And it must be so today. And it should drive us who claim the name of Christ to our knees at the foot of the Calvary.