by Jefferson David Tant
Do you know any “ordinary” Christians? Let’s define the word before you answer. As an adjective — “With no special or distinctive features; normal.” As a noun — “What is commonplace or standard.” Synonyms include — “common, usual, regular, normal, habitual, customary.”
One man was told his name had been mentioned as a possible elder. He declined the honor, stating that “I just want to be an ordinary Christian.” So, just what is “an ordinary Christian?”
We might define him or her as one who lives a good moral life, who is kind to people, who attends church regularly, who will help someone if called upon, who contributes willingly when the basket is passed, who is honest in dealing with others and who fulfills family responsibilities.
In other words, this ordinary Christian is a good person.
Question: Is that enough? Paul rebuked the Corinthians for their behavior, and asked, “are you…behaving like ordinary men?” (I Corinthians 3:3 RSV). I am aware that the context refers to their sinful behavior, but I believe the question can also have other applications. My own conviction is that “ordinary” should not be in the Christian’s vocabulary to describe life in Christ.
Consider some words used to describe the Christian’s life in Scripture. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).
What does salt do? It affects everything it comes in touch with. What good is it if it just sits in the salt-shaker? What good does light do when under a basket? Consider Paul’s words to Philippi, as he admonished them to be “…children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life…” (Philippians 2:15-16).
Question: How involved is the “ordinary Christian” in influencing those they come in contact with? Do others see us as a lighthouse in a world of darkness? How often do we talk to others about spiritual things — neighbors, friends, co-workers, store clerks, strangers, anyone?
We call ourselves disciples of Christ. A disciple is a pupil, a learner, a follower. We remember Christ’s description of his mission in the world — “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). What does a carpenter’s apprentice do? He watches and learns so he can be a carpenter. What should a “soul seeker” apprentice do? Watch and learn in order to also be a soul seeker. If we do not seek to emulate our teacher, how can we truly call ourselves his disciples?
Our church buildings and homes are filled with Bibles — food for the soul. But it seems many are starving for this food, while so many “ordinary Christians” keep the food stored up out of reach.
I must say I admire Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Do not misunderstand. I believe their doctrines are of Satan but multiplied thousands of them go all over the world knocking on doors teaching the doctrines of Russell and Smith. I have read that there may be 50,000 Mormon missionaries around the world. They are mostly young people, but I see retired and older people who also devote their time to this. They normally spend about two years doing this work. And Jehovah’s Witnesses are not paid workers. They are simply members who believe in their doctrine and spend so many hours a month going from door to door.
As Christ urged his followers to be different than the world, he asked, “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:47-48). That’s a good question for us. “What more are you doing than others?”
I haven’t found any Bible verses that imply that God will approve “ordinary Christians.” Consider: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58). “Abounding” is not “ordinary.” "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24). “Strive” is not an “ordinary” effort. We remember the Laodiceans, the “lukewarm” Christians, whom God will spit out (Revelation 3:15-16). Would that also be the “ordinary” Christians?
Brethren, we must not be content to be ordinary.