You are not a Christian just because you like Jesus

Photo by Isidora Leyton

Photo by Isidora Leyton

Jesus is even popular with people who aren’t Christians. He garners a lot of respect from the great men and women of other faiths. The fourteenth Dalai Lama, one of the primary leaders of Tibetan Buddhism, called Jesus “an enlightened person” and heralded him as a master teacher. Hindu leader Mahatma Gandhi wrote warmly about Jesus, “The gentle figure of Christ, so patient, so kind, so loving, so full of forgiveness that he taught his followers not to retaliate when abused or struck, but to turn the other cheek, I thought it was a beautiful example of the perfect man.” The renowned scientist Albert Einstein once told The Saturday Evening Post, “I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene [Jesus].… No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.” Even the Qur’an refers to Jesus as a prophet and messenger of God.

What should we make of Jesus’s popularity? It’s not difficult to understand that being a Christian means liking Jesus, and that someone who does not like Jesus is probably not a Christian. But can we say that liking him is enough to make you a Christian? If Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and even atheists can think that Jesus was a great guy, then certainly we cannot say that.

In the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s life, time and again he encounters people who like him, respect him, and approve of what they perceive to be his message. But then he turns around and tells them that they are not his disciples, that they are missing something (e.g. John 3; Luke 9:57–62; Luke 18:18–22). You are not a Christian just because you like Jesus. Instead, being a Christian means that you believe in him. That is to say, you must have faith in him.

Mike McKinley, Am I Really A Christian?, pp. 44-45