What is a Christian is one of the simplest and most complex questions that can be asked. Within Christianity there is a definite divide between Protestantism and Catholicism. There is also Eastern Orthodox and Episcopal which started as a branch off of Catholicism that allowed divorce and is now somewhere between Protestant and Catholic. Add in the hundreds if not thousands of denominations that have differing views on the Bible and its interpretation and the question, “What is a Christian?” become very complex.
It’s best to remain simple and basic on this question. Once things start getting adding it gets difficult and ugly and ultimately that’s how the divisions came about in the first place. A Christian is anyone who has accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior. This means that they have acknowledged that they are a sinner. They believe that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of the sins. They have asked God to forgive them of their sins on this basis. I fully believe that anyone who does this is a Christian and is saved.
What most people mean when they ask “What is a Christian?” is really “What does a good Christian look like?” If a person commits such and such a sin, are they really a Christian? If a person doesn’t go to church every Sunday or isn’t forgiving, are they really a Christian? Christians are not perfect and they are going to slip up and sin. Some Christians slip up more than others and some are much more mature than others.
The mark of a mature Christian is best seen in the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Mature Christians are going to demonstrate these things consistently. Immature Christians are going to be lacking them as they take time to develop. Showing possession of the fruit of the Spirit is a good indication that a person is a genuine Christian. The reverse is not true however. Just because they don’t show the fruit of the Spirit in their lives does not mean that they are not a Christian, it may just mean that they are an immature Christian. There are many immature Christians in the world and they should be striving to be better Christians.