Can One be a Christian Outside the Church?

In his homily on January 11, 2015, Pope Francis told his audience:

Teach your children that it is not possible to be Christian outside the Church, and it is not possible to follow Christ outside the Church.

I beg to differ.

The truth is that one can be a Christian without being a member of any Church, be it the Catholic Church or a Christian Church.

Jesus gave us the two greatest commandments in Matthew 22:35–40:

And one of them, a doctor of the law, asking him, tempting him: Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

Belonging to a church does not make one a Christian. Going to church every Sunday does not make one a Christian. Studying the Bible does not make one a Christian. Knowing the Bible inside out does not make one a Christian. Only when one keeps Jesus’ commandments of love can one call oneself a Christian.

Pope Francis is wrong. Yes, one can be a Christian outside the Church. Yes, one can follow Jesus outside the Church, provided one lives a life of love as Jesus commanded.

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