“Normal” vs. Normative

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV).

I’m hesitant to publish this post, as some people might be offended. I’ve tried to make it clear that the opinions stated are my opinions; they are how I feel that I need to judge myself. As they say, your mileage may vary.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately (as mindful disciples do!) about the American brand of Christianity and my place in it. I believe that all mindful Christians must, from time to time humbly and honestly reevaluate the status of their faith. In doing so, it’s occurred to me that, while I have endeavored to be a “better” Christian, it is possible that the goals for which I hope to attain may not be the best goals God desires for my life. Is American Christianity true Christianity? If Paul walked into our churches and our communities, would he recognize our brand of faith? Am I a “normal” Christian or a normative Christian?

A normal Christian fits somewhere within the statistical bell curve that identifies varying levels of faith and commitment. This represents Christianity as it is practiced today. The majority of us fall in the center of the curve, where it peaks. At the left side of the curve, where it meets the axis, are people who do not claim to be Christians. At the right side, where it meets the axis are people who we might identify as the “Super Christians” of the modern era (Think Mother Theresa and Billy Graham).

I certainly do not mean to imply that those within that curve are not true Christians. I do, however, wonder if the standards that we preach and hold to meet the standards of the early Church. Taking martyrdom off of the table–although it is still very much on the table in many parts of the world–how does my life measure up to the lives of the early disciples?

normative Christian, by contrast, is one who adheres to the standards by which one was identified as a Christian by the early Church (in my opinion, of course!). Where and whether a normative Christian would appear on our bell curve is a decision we each need to make for ourselves.

Jesus told us in The Great Commission that we are to be disciples making disciples (Matthew 28:19). He went on to say that involves teaching people to “observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20 ESV). Observe doesn’t mean watch; it means obey!

I suppose that, for me (we each must decide to what standards we choose to adhere), being a disciple, being a Christian, all boils down to a few questions:

  1. Am I becoming more like Christ or more like the world?
  2. When people look at me, and observe my behavior, are they seeing me or Christ in me?
  3. Do my attitudes and behaviors attract people to faith in Christ or turn them off to Christianity?

Recent statistics have shown that the lifestyles of those who call themselves Christians or born-again Christians, do not differ substantially from those who consider themselves to be atheists (I apologize for not having a reference. I heard the statistics on a podcast and can’t seem to find them again.). If I fit in to those statistics, I don’t believe that I (I refuse to judge anyone but myself!) can rightly call myself a Christian, let alone a disciple.

I don’t aspire to some grandiose super-Christian status. I would like to be seen as a Christian and a disciple. I do, however, believe that my personal standards need reevaluating. Perhaps yours do too.

Blessings on your day!

**Image from https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Bell-Curve_fig5_281109725

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