What Does It Take to Make a Christian?
◆ Millions of dollars every year are contributed to the advancement of missionary work in non-Christian countries. Thousands of persons in far-flung parts of the globe are won to Christianity by the material benefits they receive as a result of these contributions. But are such converts real Christians? Is their motive for professing Christianity as their religion a proper one? Is it strong enough to stand in a time of trial and test? An incident reported in the Ottawa Journal of May 28, 1960, sheds light on the answer to these questions.
◆ In a remote section of the Philippine Islands a missionary doctor once noticed a most disconsolate Igorot sitting by the roadside. The poor native looked so absolutely wretched that the doctor stopped and asked what was the matter. The man despondently answered that he felt very bad. The doctor asked why. When the Igorot said that the bishop was coming the next day, the missionary reassured him, and said that the bishop was a good man, and would not hurt anybody.
◆ The native promptly agreed, and said warmly that he liked the bishop. “Then,” asked the doctor, “what is wrong?” “When he was here last,” came the reply, “he gave me a hat and I became an Episcopalian.” “That’s fine. It is a good religion,” assured the doctor.
◆ The native then began to explain that a little later a Catholic priest came along and gave him a pair of trousers and he became a Catholic. “Well,” said the doctor, “Catholicism is also a good religion.” Sadly the native said that the priest was now gone and the bishop was coming back, and he did not want to make the bishop unhappy. The old fellow looked so sad as he pondered his problem that the missionary finally asked him which group he would choose. “I think,” said the native, “I will give back the hat to the bishop and the pants to the priest, and just be a pagan again.”
◆ This may appear as just a humorous story; however, it underlines this distressing fact—many have accepted Christianity not because of heart appreciation but because of its popularity and the material benefits it brings. This is true not only in non-Christian lands but also among those professing to be Christian nations. If faced with a similar situation, how many of today’s Christians would resemble the old Igorot who wanted to give back the hat and the pants and just be a pagan again?