Every Christian should be able to state the foundational truth of his or her faith in Jesus Christ and an experiential reality of living as his disciple.
But we will not all use the same vocabulary.
In some Christian denominations it is expected that each individual remembers a date, a moment, or an experience of salvation. Phrases such as, “accepted Christ” or “Invited Jesus to be Lord of my life” are common in these Christian cultures. Other Christians express their stories differently, like “I’ve always known Jesus” or “I’ve been a Christian as long as I can remember.” There are theological underpinnings and denominational doctrinal positions that account for these differences, but it is not my purpose to examine or argue doctrine.
Instead, I invite Christians to enjoy each others’ unique stories of faith and discipleship regardless of the vocabulary in which they are expressed.
When my Christian friends in the Catholic tradition passionately express the vital faith that they have known from very young ages, I understand their vocabulary. Their lives are full of the presence of Christ.
My friends who prefer mainline Protestant denominations use slightly different terms to express the love and faith they have for their Savior. It’s real.
And many of my Christian friends do identify the moment in which they crossed a line into faith and God changed their lives. They are beautiful stories.
I’ve come to appreciate these nuances through my work in Community Bible Study. Each week believers from dozens of churches representing many Christian denominations sit around tables to study God’s word. We share our impressions, questions and applications of a passage of Scripture from our unique perspectives and using varied vocabularies. We learn from each other in respectful unity and love.
It matters very little what words we use to express the magnificent truth that we were once lost and now we are found, whether it was a defined moment or a growing recognition.
The important truth is that we know Jesus.
Have you noticed differences in Christian faith “vocabularies?” How do you tell your story? I’d love to hear it!
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all…” Ephesians 4:3-5