While the notion of non-practicing Christians is wide-spread, its connotations remain obscure. The same could be said of non-practicing Catholics or some other denomination. The term sinner is also used in the gospels, not in the sense that it applies to all but concerning non-observant Jews. All things considered, we are encouraged to identify nine representative clues to this troubling phenomenon.
(1) The apostles’ teaching. As evidence of the fidelity of the early Christian fellowship, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). Accordingly, those who fail to do so may be construed as non-practicing.
(2) Personal piety. Each is admonished to take the rigorous road of discipleship (cf. Matt. 7:13-14). Nothing else will suffice.
(3) Corporate fellowship. The Christian faith, moreover, is meant to be exercised in community: where there is reciprocal availability, and openness to God’s initiatives (cf. Eph. 4:1-4).
(4) The commission to disciple all nations was never rescinded (cf. Matt. 28:16-20). Nor are there any exceptions, although there is a division of labors.
(5) Christians are also called upon to act as a constructive social catalyst. In greater detail, “For men of God are assuredly the salt of the earth: they preserve the order of the world; and society is held together as long as the salt is uncorrupted” (Origin, Against Celsus, VIII, lxx).
(6) Conversely, they are not meant to uncritically conform to cultural standards. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,” Paul admonished his readers, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2).
(7) Affirm life. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Life is good if lived according to God’s directives. Otherwise, it unravels.
(8) Pursue justice. “Away with the noise of your songs!” the Lord protests. “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:23-24).
(9) Practice unconditional love. “But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well,” the Lord remonstrated with his reluctant prophet Jonah. “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4:10-11).
In conclusion, these considerations leave the credibility of the non-practicing Christian’s faith in doubt. “Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” Jesus rhetorically inquires. “Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matt. 7:16-17).
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