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The Professed Christian and The Anonymous Christian: The Inherent Paradox

the-professed-christian-and-the-anonymous-christian-the-inherent-paradox

A Christian is a person who believes and professes faith in Jesus Christ as the true Son of God. The Christian religion calls for a special relationship with Christ, the keeping of his precepts and imitating him in words and deeds. Profession of faith may be public or private, however, the identification with Christ and his church, and the church members cannot be private. A Christian is a signpost and banner that carries Christ in words, deeds and name. However when we talk about anonymity, it refers to hidden identity, being kept from the knowledge of other people. An anonymous person is one who is unknown by name. It also refers to one who is uninteresting in features or quality, not known with or lacking marked individuality. If we thus say that a Christian is a bearer of Christ in name, it means that a Christian cannot be anonymous, rather he is a professed Christ follower. So, who are anonymous Christians? Are they Christians who hide under the covers afraid to profess their religion? Or are they those who due to persecution silently live out their faith? Let's find out. .

Emphasis have been made that the present day humans need more witnesses than preachers. Indeed, people put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories. Christ’s apostles and their early successors were not just preachers of the word, they were much more; they were true and living witnesses of what they preached. Their every action and inaction were concrete expression of what their lips taught. Their lives showed their exemplary faith and they were of worthy emulation to the people; and they carried it on even unto death. It is said that the martyrs are seedbed of the Church, it was on the fruitfulness of their lives laid down for the faith that made the Church to grow and flourish. This means that they did more than the ordinary profession of the lips. Their profession went deep down into their lives such that it was manifested in their words and deeds and they voluntarily laid down their lives for the truth of the faith. For Pope John Paul II, a loving witness of the Christian life will always remain the first and irreplaceable form of mission.

Christianity in truth is a professed and lived religion, or way of life; that is, being a Christian in name and in deed. What is prevalent aside this is mere professed Christianity, a Christian just in name; one who is associated with the name but lacks the deed to complement it. However, there is another group of Christians that are not thought of. They have always been around even from the earliest days of Christianity or even before its concrete formulation. I know them, you know them, we see them, and we feel them and their impact in the society. Let’s talk about them.

the-professed-christian-and-the-anonymous-christian-the-inherent-paradox

In the gospels, we read about the parable of the two sons. Jesus went on to say, “What do you think of this? A man had two sons, He went to the first and said to him: ‘Son, go and work in my vineyard today’. And the son answered: ‘I will not go’. But later he thought better of it and went. Then the father went to the second and said the same thing. This son replied: ‘I will go, sir’. But he did not go (Mt 21:28-30).

Jesus gave the parable of the two sons after the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders of the people questioned his authority. Instead of a direct answer, he posed to question to them about the authority of John the Baptist. Caught between the faith of the people and their own refusal to believe in John, they answered Jesus: ‘We do not know’. The chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders of the people have always showcased themselves as the custodians of God’s law and commands. They were the chosen and holy ones, the true sons of Abraham. Why did Jesus throw this parable at them? Let’s find out.

A man had two sons, He went to the first and said to him: ‘Son, go and work in my vineyard today’. And the son answered: ‘I will not go’. The first son did not submit to the authority of the father. First, we should note that not surrendering to the authority of the father does not make the son to be fatherless. He has a father, the father cares for him, and he however in rebellion rejects the father’s authority over him. This rebellion makes him openly reject the request of the father. What we see here is a son who wants to stand out from the father’s shadow, guidance, authority and identity.

Although the father recognizes the fact that he is his son, however, the son in disregarding the father forfeits his rightful place beside the father. His position is always there, but it rests on him to acknowledge his own sonship. The acknowledgment of his sonship is the acknowledgement of the father and the authority of the father over him. A continuous rejection of the father’s authority over him further separates him from his true identity.

The rebellion of the son can be said to be involuntary and not intended. It can be seen to be a result of unfavourable play of circumstances and events not in consonance with the timing of the father’s injunction to the son. It may also be a result of sheer ignorance. Ignorance of the importance of the father-son relationship which should always be respected. Ignorance of the essence of profession and identity. Can we say that the son knowingly wanted to undermine the father’s authority? No matter the circumstance, the action of the son cannot the upheld or applauded.

However, Jesus told us that the son later thought better of the father’s request and he went to carry it out. The son knows the will of the father and yet he rejected his father’s plea to do it initially. He later had a change of mind and went to do the will of the father. It means that deep inside, the son knows the truth and the truth is alive in him. Or maybe he could not avoid the truth that pushes him to do the good. The fact that he knows the father’s will and have the capacity to do it, tells a lot about him having a likeness to the father.

Then the father went to the second son and said the same thing. This son replied: ‘I will go, sir’. But he did not go (Mt 21:30). ‘I will go, sir’. This is the reply every parent longs to hear from their children. This is the obedient and beloved child of the father. He acknowledges the father’s authority and placed himself under him with respect. He is rightly to be identified as the son of the father. The name is true and fitting to him. His spoken word identifies him as the beloved and respectful son of the father.

However, this beloved and respectful son refused to carry out his father’s bidding. What went wrong? Was he overcome by events and circumstances that prevented him from going to do the will of the father? Did he give the positively response to the father just to get him off his back? Maybe he has become too familiar with the father and the father’s work wasn’t so important after all to him. The father surely will be disappointed in the son.

Jesus then asked, ‘Which of the two sons did what the father wanted? They answered, “The first”. (Mt 21: 31a). Indeed the first did the work required. What was required of the two sons was to work in the vineyard. The second son responded rightly to the father, but mere positive affirmation wasn’t enough, the vineyard needed to be cleaned, trimmed, watered and manure. It was not a test of momentary obedience, but complete obedience to the will of the father. It is not just a game of words, but a compliance of the heart. For Jesus, ‘they who do the will of my father are my mothers, my brothers and my sisters’ (Mt 12:50).

Which is better? A son that fails to listen to instructions at home but goes out and act well, or the son that listens and respond to every bit but acts otherwise in the public. A stubborn son who brings you honour, or an obedient son that publicly disgrace you? The known black sheep of the sheep of the family who reversed to become a shining light or the delight of the family who consequently became an object of shame and ridicule? I really cannot choose which is preferable for I’m not yet a father, or maybe the choice is hard to contemplate.

the-professed-christian-and-the-anonymous-christian-the-inherent-paradox

Who are Anonymous Christians? Anonymous Christians are those who do the will of God; they who act justly and carry out the tenets of Christ’s teachings, even though they do not belong physically to the Christian fold. Anonymous Christians like the first son seem not to recognize their place in God. Ignorance, rebellion, pride and sentiments have blinded them from acknowledging their true identity in God and accepting the authority of the Christ through the Church of God over them. Yet, these people carry out the same will of the father which he has given through his son to all who believe in him. They try to fight it, but the image of the father that dwells in them and the voice of God in conscience moves them to attend to the work of fruitfulness and goodness. Though not professed members of the sheepfolds, their deeds unite them to Christ. Remember Jesus’ words, I have other sheepfolds.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life (Jn 3:16). St Paul tells us that anyone who professes that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Saviour is saved already. Martin Luther asserts that the grace of salvation covers all who profess faith in Christ and this grace is all that is needed for salvation. Salvation for him doesn’t require our output. God accepts people by free grace, not on the grounds that they fulfill the law. However, the letter of St James stresses the need for both words and deeds. He reminds Christians whose faith has become empty and formal that the word of truth by which Christians were born is a power which drives them to concrete action. Thus, Christians can and may be not only hearers of the word but also must become doers of the word.

Confession, profession and identity is not enough for entry into the heavenly kingdom. The second son can be likened to a mere professed Christian. One who responds to the call with respect and awe but ends up not responding to the will of God. The first son can be said to be one outside of the Christian faith, the anonymous Christian who does not respond to the clarion call of the God through the Church but searches his mind and realizes the necessity to do the will of God. It is touching to hear that the first son did the will of the father and was raised above the second son. Thus Jesus said to the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders of the people; they who were the supposed obedient keepers of the commandments yet lacking in genuine works of salvation, bearing little or no fruit. To them he concludes his parable; truly I say to you: publicans and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you (Mt 21:31b).

The plethora of churches and the number of Christian faithful in the world is so enormous and cannot be equaled by any religion or sect. We might be tempted to say that there is a large number of people doing the will of God. However it seems like the opposite. Go through histories and great events that have positively shaped the world; look at your surroundings and keenly examine Christians and non-Christians; look at the injustices in the world and even among Christians in the Church and compare it to the society, I ask you, what do you see? The anonymous Christians are doing the father’s will while the professed Christians are basking in the euphoria of their calling.

Like the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders of the people who were concerned with whose authority Jesus’ teachings and faith based on; we have formulated commands, decrees, guidelines, rules and regulations that have kept us where we are, instead of standing up to attend to the father’s vineyard. Elaborate faith professions, large gatherings for programmes, retreats, and conventions; owning prestigious edifices and places of worship. All these are needed just as the second son’s positive response to the father was elating. But without the true work which was the intent of the father’s call to the sons, we will definitely lose it.

There seems to be a shift in identity. The disobedient one through faithful deeds becomes the obedient one. The obedient one by the lack of fruitful deeds becomes the disobedient one. He who couldn’t win the father’s approval by words gained the father’s love by his deeds, while he who won the father’s approval by words lost through inactivity the father’s love. This is the case of the first becoming the last, and the last becoming the first. The anonymous Christian becomes the professed of the Father, while the professed Christian becomes an anonymous before God. Did Jesus not warned about this during his teaching here on earth? Yes, he did. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not speak in your name... then I will tell them openly: I have never known you". (Mt 7:22-23).

However it should be noted that Christianity is first and foremost the religion of those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. It is very difficult to see how someone could be characterized as “Christian” without that basic belief. It is of popular belief that the basic foundation of Christianity is belief in Jesus Christ. Christianity cannot be associated with anyone who does not believe in Christ. So it is opined that we can only talk of Anonymous Christians when we refer to those who have never heard of Christ and who live lives of devotion to God and would have embraced the opportunity to be baptized had they known of its necessity, and in living out what they desire, they are able to be saved.

Yet, there are those outside of the Christian religion who have a genuine faith in God; and unknowingly turn to Christ in the decisions they make and attitudes they adopt and are therefore not excluded from salvation. Are they right in their decision not to accept Christ? No. The anonymous Christian message is not a way to water down the Christian message. It is not advocating a positive affirmation and a sort of encouragement for those who reject the Christian faith. Just like the first son, rejecting the authority of the father cannot be encouraged. However one cannot fail to notice the good works carried out by these individuals; works which some professed Christians cannot boast of. The important issue here is that we should not let those who are outside the faith beat us in the race of salvation while we are basking in the euphoria of our call in Christ.

Comments

Joshua Dehi (author) from Lagos, Nigeria on June 25, 2020:

Seems like the tenth verse is problematic...motives...thats a good way of escaping. Farewell

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 25, 2020:

My apologies. I thought of you as open to discussing opposing views. Instead you question my motives rather than what I say. Good tidings to you.

Joshua Dehi (author) from Lagos, Nigeria on June 25, 2020:

When we want to justify ourselves we select passages...why not quote the tenth verse?

Paul is only saying here that we should not boast of our work...because our work alone cannot bring us salvation...which is firstly a gift...

So, why not continue with the tenth verse and explain pls

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 25, 2020:

See the works I do here. We are engaged as Christians should be. I enjoy discussing this very old and good concept with one with knowledge and a strong belief. Espousing our belief is perhaps the finest works of all, though not my calling.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV)

That is a tough verse. I am well blessed to do much work that I feel is God's hand and not mine. but to me good works are for me It is love.

Perhaps change the first line of your last comment unless you chose to laugh at me.

Joshua Dehi (author) from Lagos, Nigeria on June 25, 2020:

U make me laugh...u just want to hold ur position...nobody knows all...u can still learn...i am proudly catholic

Jesus preached at the temple...just like my 6 month niece prays.

Baptism was the beginning of Jesus ministry...Baptism was a work that means...Jesus presented himself to be baptised, he didn't allow things to flow and claim sufficient grace and he invites us to do the same...i just hope u are not baptised and i hope u don't pray or read ur bible...just stay...the grace is sufficient for you

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 25, 2020:

Check you book on that, Jesus preached at the temple as a child. Jesus was not even Baptized until he had many followers.

Just what denomination are you? And please answer or I feel you are ashamed.

Joshua Dehi (author) from Lagos, Nigeria on June 25, 2020:

The answer is, you are not a baby, a baby is not a foetus and a foetus is not creation...All creation awaits the salvation of Christ...but each will account according to his state....like Paul when you are a baby, you take liquid food, but as grown up you leave the liquid for solid..Jesus did not preach at the temple as a baby...but when it was time he did...he himself worked for our salvation

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 25, 2020:

The baby is your answer.

Joshua Dehi (author) from Lagos, Nigeria on June 25, 2020:

I find it hard to place it...that they are right but not required...how can a right thing not be required? Yes, grace is sufficient...but grace is not dormant it is put to use and i don't know any other way it can be put to use outside good works.

If we all say grace is sufficient and leave it at that then all will be saved...for grace is available to all

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 25, 2020:

Good that is the point we disagree on. Good Works are not required. Definitely the right way to act but not required. God's grace is sufficient.

I am non-denominational -- what denomination are you?

Joshua Dehi (author) from Lagos, Nigeria on June 25, 2020:

You are heartily welcome on board. Grace is free...good works are required

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 25, 2020:

Now with that I am on board.

My point is that you do not have to do good works to receive that gift of grace.

Joshua Dehi (author) from Lagos, Nigeria on June 24, 2020:

Seems like you are missing the point...no one deserves grace...it is a gift of God free given to us in Jesus Christ...but a gift can be received or rejected...dat is why the effect is not the same in everyone...Free will is always there to make the grace ours or reject it

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 24, 2020:

What possible scripture did this come from? "His grace is sufficient only when we actively make the grace ours" Christ did not die on the cross so that I could earn grace. We simply do not earn or deserve it no matter what. It is only freely given by God. To say I deserve it is false doctrine.

Joshua Dehi (author) from Lagos, Nigeria on June 24, 2020:

Thanks Eric. God is omnipotent, He would have said the Word and everyone will be saved, but He didnt...He will not save you without ur cooperation. Grace is built on nature...we work with grace and it becomes habitual, it disposes us to live and act in keeping with God's call. The Church is Christ's body led and nourished by the Holy spirit...there should be no conflict of obedience

Paul himself had to come to Jerusalem to see the elders, the church in Jerusalem. Not following a church and being a christian...things don't happen by chance. We have a natural aptitude for God, but it is always nourished by the community of God's people...His grace is sufficient only when we actively make the grace ours

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 24, 2020:

Well that begs three questions; What about God being omnipotent? What about grace? And where is "church" to be obeyed instead of Jesus?

I do not follow a "church". I never set out to do good works, they just happen being a Christian and in the extraordinary we do not have to do a thing as His grace is enough.

Joshua Dehi (author) from Lagos, Nigeria on June 24, 2020:

Thanks Eric. To confess Christ as Lord, to profess the faith of the church and to be identified as a Christian is not enough...our words should be grounded in concrete action...worthy living and good deeds...show me your faith outside your works, and i by my works will show u my faith

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 24, 2020:

Not quite clear here. "Confession, profession and identity is not enough for entry into the heavenly kingdom." To me.

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