How to Identify a Christian

Many of us Jesus-followers no longer use the identifier of ‘Christian,’ because it has been so misused within the last several years. But if you are looking for those who follow the teachings of Jesus, how do you find them?

Poster board of various colors, Love and Kindness are never wasted, in a city park

You follow the path of nature. You look for the fruit.

We identify fruit trees by the type of fruit they bear. Apple trees are never identified as tangerine trees, because they bear apples. Lemon trees are for that particular citrus byproduct and nothing else. We identify plants by their fruit.

The same is true for the followers of Jesus. They bear a certain type of fruit which is listed in Galatians 5:22-23. This fruit comes as a package, not individual giftings. It is the sure sign of an authentic Christian.

Anybody can claim to be a Christian — to speak the words. But only a true and genuine Christian displays the following fruit:

Love. This love is not the sappy, smoochy Valentine type of love, but the love that treats people with grace and dignity. This love looks beyond race, gender, religion, and which particular sports team people cheer for. In fact, this love pays special attention to those who are different than we are simply because Jesus said we should ‘love our neighbors.’ Jesus gave us the capacity to love the unlovely, so this type of love displays action to help the homeless, the misunderstood, and the marginalized.

Joy. Not the I’m-so-happy-because-I-just-bought-a-new-car circumstance. This joy goes beyond the happiness factor to find inner joy even within terrible situations. True Christians have joy no matter what, because they are focused on their final residence — living in heaven with Jesus.

Peace. A true Christian does not need to live in a state of constant worry or fear, because they know God loves them forever. No matter what is happening around them, they feel this inner peace. They let Jesus handle life. Sometimes, you can even see this peace on their faces.

Patience. How we react when we wait in line. How we act when someone cuts us off in traffic. How we reply when we’ve been put on hold for several hours. How we live when we’re waiting for that scary result of medical tests. These situations may try our patience, but the authentic Christian knows how to remain patient . . . even when the world feels crazy.

Kindness. A popular internet meme states, “When you’re wondering what to be, just be kind.” We all know how it feels to be treated with kindness. To feel a warm and accepting handshake. To be the recipient of a kind gesture. A surprise gift. A sweet sentiment freely offered. Kindness is part of the fruit that Christians bear.

Goodness. Kindness and Goodness seem like identical twins. When a person is genuinely good, they do kind things. They become what we in the south identify as ‘Good People.’ Goodness includes giving freely. Being available when others need help. Responding with a smile. Having a good heart.

Faithfulness. The faithful Christian is a person you can depend on. A person who keeps his/her word. This is the person who comes to work early and leaves late, just because that is who they are. The faithful person shows up and stays committed for the long haul.

Gentleness. Gentle people are careful about the words that spew out of their mouths. Gentleness includes how we treat people and all God’s creatures. The feeding of a feral cat. The friendly hand on the shoulder of a homeless person. The refusal to retaliate when someone calls us a name or gives us the middle finger.

Self-Control. All parts of the fruit are evident within self-control. If left to our own devices and not following Jesus, we can be the ugliness and nastiest of people. On the news every day, we see people who act out of hatred and lack of self-control. Part of growing up in faith, especially for Christians, is learning how to control our natural tendencies.

True Christians grow stronger in the above fruit. They discipline themselves to react in ways that please their amazing God. Not because they are afraid of any retribution from a divine power. But because they are grateful for everything Jesus did for them on that terrible day when he died. Because they know he rose from the grave and gifted them with the spiritual strength to be all God created them to be.

Authentic Christians follow the two commandments given by Jesus: Love God and Love Others. If you look closely at the fruit listed above, you can see how it displays loving God and loving others. So that’s how you can identify a true Christian.

You will know we are Christians by our fruit.

©2024 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Image by Ditto Bowo / Unsplash

For more information on the life of faith, check out Uploading Faith: What It Means to Believe.

4 thoughts on “How to Identify a Christian”

  1. I absolutely love this essay and its message. So often today who and what we claim to be has been co-opted by those who put their own self serving spin on what it is to be a Christian or American. The cross and the American flag begin to stand for something Jesus would not recognize, much less approve of.

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