The controversy surrounding the Sabbath and Jewish identity in the time of Jesus that I mentioned two days ago is similar to the debate on Christian identity. Of course, this is not new at all. The first huge controversy in the early church was on the circumcision (Acts 15), on whether one should be circumcised to be ‘saved’, i.e., a code for whether one belongs to the people of God or not.
Nowadays, this issue is more prominent among the Evangelicals, who want to differentiate between ‘nominal’ Christians and ‘born-again’ Christians. The assumption is the ‘nominal’ Christians are not ‘real’ Christians. In Indonesian parlance, we called it ‘Kristen KTP’, i.e., those who are Christians only in their ID cards. The differentiation is then used for evangelistic purposes, since these ‘nominal’ Christians need to be evangelized as well as they are not ‘real’ Christians yet.
The problem with this is it assumes that we can indeed know who the ‘real’ Christians are and who are not. And this is quite disrespectful, as we become the one who decide whether other people’s faith claim is true or not.
It is true that “not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 7.21) But it also means that the saying applies to us as well. So, instead of bothering ourselves with labelling our fellow Christians, I think it will be more fruitful for us to work together to serve the world. The prerogative to separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats ultimately belongs not to us but to the Lord himself.