There Are Two Types of Christians

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Christianity is a vast and complex community based on a belief system translated into innumerable ways. There are countless denominations, which can be broken down into thousands of different churches, which splinter off into an endless variety of theologies, doctrines, styles, and traditions—dispersed within various social, economic, and cultural environments.

The term ‘Christianity’ means a million different things to a million different people, and it’s hard to define exactly what type of Christian an individual, community, or institution may be. But after much observation, experience, and interaction, I’ve determined that there are just two types of Christians: the hopeful and the fearful.

The term ‘Hopeful’ or ‘Fearful’ can describe almost every single action, message, attitude, and belief that a Christian presents and experiences.

For some, the gospel message of Jesus is one of hope: restoration, redemption, and reconciliation. For others, it’s a story of fear: judgment, shame, and guilt.

Jesus is either a loving Savior, who sacrificed Himself for our sake, and wants people to go to Heaven…

Or…He’s a ruthless Authority who punishes sinners by having them eternally suffer in a fiery hell.

The future is either filled with God redeeming humanity and creation, and rescuing us from destruction, bringing back His creation back into a perfect existence with Him…

Or…the future consists of an apocalyptic wasteland filled with violence, death, and destruction.

The past either reflected a sovereign and caring God who wanted His loved ones to come back into a deep relationship—where God routinely intervenes to help guide, save, and help His creation…

Or…it’s a tragic story of how Satan overcame God, ruled the world, and everyone eventually became evil.

Today, we are either a hopeful generation of believers who are doing the best we can to emulate Christ’s life by sacrificially loving the world…

Or…we’re a hopeless generation addicted to sex, drugs, money, fame, and sin in general—humanity has never been more depraved.

Sermons are either inspiring, encouraging, and loving, communicating a mighty God of grace, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and love…

Or…the sermons are accusatory, hateful, and bigoted, revealing a God who wants to destroy, kill, and condemn.

Spiritual leaders are either forgiving, patient, accepting, kind, humble, and loving, reflecting the life of Christ…

Or…they’re mean, judgmental, accusatory, vengeful, bitter, and angry.

The two themes even permeate our motivations for evangelizing. We excitedly spread the gospel because want people to experience the joy of being in a loving relationship with God…

Or…we frantically scream the gospel at whomever we come across because we want to save them from dying in Hell.

The message of Christianity is hopeful or fearful, loving or hateful, inspiring or depressing. Which message are you living?

Are we fueled by an undying hope, a blessed assurance, a loving God…

Or are we driven by fear, hate, and anxiety?

As believers, we can switch from being hopeful to fearful on a monthly, daily, and even hourly basis. We can get down, scared, lethargic, and mean. We fail because we’re human.

But our life is conveying a message. What is the sum total of our actions, beliefs, attitudes? What are we really conveying? Is it hope or fear?

 

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27 thoughts on “There Are Two Types of Christians

  1. Absolutely. The reign of Jesus is one of hope – redeeming all of creation so we can once again walk with God in the New Eden. I pray for the rebirth and transformation of the hearts of those who live from fear, because in fear they cannot experience the unending and perfect love of God. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18

  2. Obviously the correct theological standpoint is that the gospel message is one of hope and I try to live in accordance with that hope. In light of you postulation that there are two types of Christians and identifying that the hopeful have the correct viewpoint of the gospel and the fearful do not, how do you think they draw this erroneous conclusion of being fearful? More or less, what teaching leads them down the path of fearfulness? Also, how can we witness to someone living in this state of fearfulness?

    • Stephen Mattson

      Thanks, SaintBart! Great input! I don’t have any good answers, but I think one of the big issues is that fear is used as a promotional tool for many Christian leaders. Sermons, messages, and communications are seemingly more popular when there’s an element of fear (i.e. the daily news). Fear somehow powerfully engages our imagination and manipulates our emotions. For example. if I were to preach about how we might eternally suffer in a fiery hell, more people would probably pay attention to that than a hopeful sermon on God saving us.

      Witnessing to people in fear is difficult, but I think focusing on Jesus and His life is powerful. What do you think? I’m trying to work through the concept of fear related to theology right now…

      • Personally, I think that you are kind of swerving into it. Some preachers “sell” the gospel as “fire insurance” and that could be part of the problem. I think I would study the differences between delivery methods in the gospel and from today’s pulpit. One undisputed fact is that Jesus spoke more about hell than he did about heaven. I’m sure this was probably as much of a concern back then as it is today. So maybe it’s not entirely the message but more of how it’s presented. Interesting topic though; I look forward to reading any follow ups you write about this subject.

  3. Stephen, I guess I think there is a “third” kind of Christian. They are folks who certainly have a hope focused message but are able to talk about the “hard things” (which would include the fearful) in a graceful manner. I think this must be our goal. There are some very uncomfortable teachings in the NT which are tempered by the message of God’s love. These uncomfortable things are not managed by us trying to “man up” but embracing the hope we have in Jesus – even the hope to do those hard things.

    • Stephen Mattson

      I completely agree, Mark! Hope doesn’t mean comfort or ease, and still includes hardships and trials…good words.

    • There are two types of fear indicated in scripture. Fear of God and fear of temporal punishment. Paul was referring to the fear of the Lord, not to be confused with fear of temporal punishment, A great example in scripture would be the parable of talents and the temporal fear of the third servant.

    • Stephen Mattson

      Hey Karl, great question. I think it’s OK to have a healthy fear of God, but fearing God is a lot different than living life in fear, and I think this is where a lot of Christians get caught up. I think the distinction is that people sometimes preach fear and use fear as a tool to come to God INSTEAD of instructing people to fear God in order to have hope in life…

      • Thank you, Stephen. I have always understood “fthe ear of God” as a healthy fear; just as we all have a healthy fear of fire. It isn’t so much fear, as a healthy understanding and respect of what fire is capable of doing to us. So our attitude toward God should be as well.

        I have never fully understood Paul’s admonition in balance with related text and I was wondering how you thought it may or may not apply with your article/point.

        I guess I need to re-read your article once more, as I do not know how one can live in the fear you say you are addressing in your article and truly be a mature Christian disciple.

        Thank you for your time. Grace and peace.

        kdr

  4. Hope is what will help see that in whatever situation we find ourselves in, we can be reconciled to God. True fear isn’t to leave us impotent but to keep us from living in sin. The two sides of a Christian’s nature, the sinful and the obedient are going to war at times, and we need hope to see that we can win the battle with Jesus, but fear certainly that we must at least give it up to Him and not wallow in sin. If we are struggling severely with sin of any kind, we must ask God into it, seek accountability in the church we go to, and tell one of our elders we can trust what we are going through. A subtle blend of hope and fear may keep us on the straight and narrow path, provided we have faith in Jesus and call on Him at all times.

  5. Warren

    Increasingly I had been struggling with the intersection of Religion and Politics. It becomes clearer when I apply the 2 types:

    I live in a world of fear and desperation. I need laws to protect me and my belief.
    I live in a world of joy and hope. I don’t need laws to share my happiness with everyone.

    • had a little bit of a conversation about this issue kind of sort of at a dinner the other night – talking about immigration and taxes and the legalization of drugs and taxes – – – some people say legalize everyone and everything because we get more taxes . . . I believe there are issues to be considered that go beyond taxes . . . protecting the innocent and those who cannot protect themselves – – – in the end I said – I think we are going to have to agree to disagree on some issues but what we did agree on is how important it is to help people make healthy choices and think about the effect of their choices on the people around them . . .

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