The Greatest Christian I Know

Who is the greatest Christian you know?

I will give my answer to that question at the end of this post.

I realize that questions such as this could be classified by some as judging others. But the Bible does tell us to “test ourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5) and to test spiritual claims and people (1 John 4:1 & Revelation 2:2). The Bible also gives us attributes to look for when conducting these examinations of ourselves and others.

Here are some of the attributes (of great Christians) that I’ve found in the Bible:

  • Compassionate, Kind, Humble, Gentle, Patient, Bearing the burdens of others and Forgiving (Colossians 3:12-13)
  • Encouraging and Building-up others (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
  • A reader and a “doer” of God’s word (James 1:22).
  • Hospitable, Sensible, Just, Devout and Self-controlled (Titus 1:8).
  • Loving, Joyful, Peaceful, Faithful (Galatians 5:22)
  • Prayerful, Thankful (to God and others) and Hopeful (Colossians 1:3-5).

If you tested yourself by the above criteria and concluded that you deserve an A+ on every one these virtues, you’re either delusional or off-the-charts self-righteous. Everyone, even the person I chose as “The Greatest Christian I Know,” struggle with some of these.

But, according to Jesus, a truly great Christian possesses one quality that sets them apart; “But the greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11)

“True greatness, true leadership, is achieved not by reducing [people] to one’s service, but by giving up oneself in selfless service to them.” Oswald Chambers

“True greatness, true leadership, is achieved not by reducing [people] to one’s service, but by giving up oneself in selfless service to them.” Oswald Chambers

When I read passages like the following, I think of caregivers; “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me…to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least [most helpless] of them, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:35-40)

I think of people like my sister and her husband who care for their 18 year-old severely Autistic son. People like my mother-in-law who took care of her ill husband until he recently passed away. And even paid caregivers, like the woman that helps Mary take care of me, qualify as “Great” in my book.

But the Greatest all-around Christian I know is Mary, my wife and best friend of 28 years. Since being diagnosed with ALS years-ago, she’s also been my full-time caregiver. She is the best example I know of a truly selfless servant.

And, no, I didn’t just choose her as the greatest Christian out of fear that she’d stop feeding and clothing me.

“…whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Matthew 20:26-28)

About Bill Sweeney

In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ - Unshakable Hope!

Posted on October 22, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 128 Comments.

  1. The only disagreement I have is that my husband is definitely the greatest Christian I know 🙂

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  2. One of the greatest Christians I know is also named Mary. She has taken care of her husband for over 30 years since he was paralyzed in an accident. He was able to drive a specially equipped van and preach until this year , but not without her help every morning and evening. I have always admired her and praise God for her.

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  3. Bill, I must have missed this, not sure why. This is a beautiful post and so lovely that you named your wife at the end. Very touching.

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  4. I want to share the blog of another care-giver. When you read her posts, you will find another wonderful and sensitive Christian. http://teresa-teresatalk.blogspot.com/

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  5. Wonderful, true and a beautiful tribute to your wife.

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  6. Well, I had to laugh a bit at your list to determine who was the best Christian, because of course, I was asking myself those questions, and I came up lacking in various degrees in just about all. Several I am miserable at, but I’ve improved over the years! I do have to say that a good amount of my Mother’s relatives have been a wonderful Christian example to me–most of them have gone on to their reward. My Grandmother on my Mother’s side was a wonderful Christian, I never heard her say a bad word about anyone. You have presented a very good list, I should be more mindful of those points. thank you.

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  7. What a lovely testimony. Praise God!

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  8. The post I read just before yours was from a person who had negative experiences with “Christians”. Things we hear again and again. Judgementalism, narrow-mindedness, self-righteousness.

    A book that profoundly affected my life and belief system is, “The Jesus I Never Knew”, by Philip Yancey. In it, he seeks to distill who Jesus really was and what his characteristics really were out of the myths and artistic interpretations of who he has become.

    From what I read of Jesus, he was so intriguing to the population of his day, that they thronged him to the point where in one instance he had to push out on a boat just to be able to address them all. And in another instance, he had to climb up the side of a hill to speak to them all. Why? Well if he was judgemental, narrow-minded, and self-righteous, I doubt he would have had this affect on people.

    Instead, he befriended the undesireables and outcasts. He healed the sick, he fed people, he brought hope, mercy, forgiveness, enlightenment. He even prayed that the very people who were brutally and torturously murdering him… as they were doing so… would be forgiven.

    I dont know who the greatest Christian in my life is. I do know that the ones who I see as great Christians are those who behave in ways that Jesus did. If our behaviours are not similar to Jesus’ and we don’t impact people in any way similar to how Jesus did… how is it that we are Christians?… I wonder.

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    • Hello Chaz. It’s good to hear from you again. I agree with everything you said – I don’t believe that Jesus was judgmental, at least not by today’s definition. The key is love – not a feeling, but, as I said in the post, it’s the genuine servant kind of love (actions, not merely words) that people relate to.
      I have heard good things about that book and I like Yancy; I will order it.

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      • Thanks Bill…. yes, Philip Yancey definitely has some perspectives that have evaded many of us. And is very capable at communicating them. His, “What’s so amazing about grace”, book totally stood me on my ear. It prompted me to ask some very deep questions about my beliefs.

        On the first title I mentioned, here is a vid clip… about 20 minutes… part of a home study on the book… but it really gives the overall message quite effectively.

        Im back to blogging more and will pop by more often.

        Ciao.

        Chaz

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  9. Awesome post, my brother. Laughed out loud (!) at the following:

    “If you tested yourself by the above criteria and concluded that you deserve an A+ on every one these virtues, you’re either delusional or off-the-charts self-righteous.”

    Regarding the greatest Christian one knows, though, I’m pretty sure Mary would say it is you…

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  10. Awww….this post is so endearing!

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  11. Love this post. We can all be the greatest Christian’s, saints-in-the-making, by serving exactly where we are. Like you and your wife. Happy I found your blog!

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  12. Awesome. The greatest Christian I know is my first pastor. Appreciate that you are lifting up the unsung heroes.

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  13. Reblogged this on Tree and commented:
    A beautiful post.

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  14. In the few days that I have followed your blog posts I have repeatedly been reminded of how much I need to grow up as a Christian. I praise God because in my difficulties He is making me grow closer to him. In service to him and others I will find meaning to a life where I seem to be drifting purposelessly.
    May God continue to bless you, thank you for this beautiful thought-provoking post.

    Paula

    PS: Thank you for following my blog

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  15. beautiful post. thanks for sharing. I hope I have a Mary someday when I need her!

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  16. Mary sounds like an extraordinary person, I always say that caregivers are angels in disguise. Your love for each other and Christianity shines through, and I have always said that laughter is such good medicine. I have had cancer three times,and I praise God for my husband who was my caregiver every time I was ill, with God in our lives, Rob and I had the strength to carry on. You two are truly blessed to have each other.

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  17. Beautiful post. Beautiful picture of marriage too, even though you didn’t say that. Blessings to you.

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  18. I’m so glad you are blessed with such a wonderful wife Bill! Marriage truly tests how selfish or selfless a person can be and obviously she is very selfless. It seems like in this world it’s harder and harder to find people who truly reflect Christ’s selflessness, compassion, and love to those around them. It’s so nice to hear you sharing about your wife because it’s encouraging to know that people like her exist. May God continue to bless both of you!

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  19. Wow, Bill, you brought me through a wide range of emotions with this post. First I got uncomfortable with the description of a great Christian as I was reminded how far I fail… then I felt relieved that only delusional people think they scored well. 🙂 Then I cried as you described Mary’s servant heart; however, your humor soon had me laughing. You both sound like an A+ couple.

    Blessings ~ Wendy

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    • Thank you so much for your comments, Wendy. I don’t measure up to being a “great Christian” either. I don’t think that even the Apostles would have believe they measure up. I think our aim should be improvement over time.
      “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8)

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  20. You’re both lucky… Mary. What a perfect name, too. Blessings, friend!

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  21. Excellent post! God’s take on this, Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord. Prov 18:22 nlt. Keep up the great writing.

    Jacqueline

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  22. Bill, this is truly beautiful,to have a wife who is so Christ-like. She too is blessed to have such a husband as yourself.

    One day when all of earthly existence has passed away and we are changed and our bodies are fashioned like unto His glorious body, when the former things have passed away, we will surely say, “It was worth it all!” What befell us made the Lord evident to those whom we knew. Jesus lived His selfless life through us, so we could glorify Him.

    The adversity you and Mary have endured showed Jesus to the world and to those around and about you. I praise God for you both and your Godly example. You both have shown that God’s amazing grace is sufficient.

    May the Lord continue to help and bless you both until the trump sounds! Surely it won’t be long now.

    Maranatha!

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  23. optimisticgladness

    I don’t know your wife, but I would agree with you. I know she is a servant, a hero really. You are really good at blogging Bill.

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  24. You are a good man… This is beautiful tribute to your wife. I can only imagine how selfless and giving she is. God bless her with every good and perfect gift.

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  25. This has to be the most beautiful post I have read all year! Lord bless this man and his precious precious wife and all the incredible servant hearted and ”love-gifted” Christians I know!

    Love the humour! Love the post! Best share ever!

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  26. Awww, so beautiful and wonderfully written! Amen! Caregivers are definitely at the top of the list of some of the greatest Christians I know. Love the humor throughout. Blessings to you and your wife, and to your family!

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  27. I was hoping it was your wife. A very well deserved honor that you have bestowed on her. 🙂 Being a caregiver can be a thankless job. Bill, I can’t finish my comment… Take care and God bless! 😀

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  28. Wow!!! Thanks for a well written and powerful message on our self-denied (or lack there-of) life here on this earth. Appreciated every part of it and your willingness to share. Mary must be awesome!

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  29. What a lovely tribute to Mary!

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  30. I applaud you for using your ALS to encourage others and because you see the good in your wife and bless her with your love.

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  31. Thank you, Bill … I have been thinking much about what it means to follow Jesus … all the way … you reminded me of a quote by Andrew Murray (Humility) “Here is the path to the higher life: down, lower down! Just as water always seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds men abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless.”

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  32. What a blessing she is for you. I speculate that she would choose you as the best Christian she knows!

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  33. I’m sure this post was a blessing to your wife. She sounds like a beautiful Christian! Thank you for this reminder of our calling to serve.

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  34. Beautiful reminder of what to strive for as a Christian….I fall so very short. I’m learning that sin is more than what we do, but what we *fail* to do as well. I know it intellectually, but living at that level is another thing altogether. Thank you for your inspiring words.

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    • Thank you, Claudia. I am with you in the falling short club. I also agree with you about sin being more about what we fail to do – I think the Bible agrees with that also: “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

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  35. What if all godly marriages spoke of their spouse as the best-Christian-I-know, how beautiful would servant hood be in glorifying Jesus. A blessing to read, and to apply.

    God bless you both.

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  36. This post should be a challenge to all of us who claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I suspected this person you were expressing your appreciation for was your wife. It takes much more than “love” as the world knows it to be a truly selfless person. I now, as you said she struggles (as we all do) with living the life (as a lover of God) inside this flesh.
    Thank you so much for such honesty in your writing. Mary is truly a Mary (the sister of Martha) in your life. But, as I read your words, it is obvious the love, help, support and friendship is reciprocal. Such a blessing!! 🙂
    Stephanie

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    • Thank you, Stephanie. “It takes much more than “love” as the world knows it to be a truly selfless person.” I agree. Romantic love is great and necessary for a good marriage, but it takes Agape (God’s love/servant love) when the going gets tough.

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  37. I had a feeling that Mary would be your choice, and rightly so! God bless you, Bill. for the beautiful tribute you’ve written for her, and God bless Mary, for the loving, faithful care she provides for you and your family.

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    • Thank you, Nancy. To be honest, it isn’t really a fair contest because Mary is the only Christian that I really know, in the sense of being with her 24/7. I don’t even know my own daughters that well. For good or bad, we don’t know what people do when they’re away from us so I probably would have been unfairly judging someone other than Mary.

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  38. Such a wonderful compliment to Mary, but also shows what a wonderful man you are for lifting her up to that standard. I am so blessed and thankful to call you family. Please Continue sharing these wonderful blogs. Love you brother!

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  39. Amen. Good convicting list. (my word for the week has been self-control, and it’s on your list 😉

    Blessings to you and your beautiful Mary 😉
    JC

    BTW- I sent you an email.

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  40. Mary sounds like a wonderful person, Bill …and I am sure that you are a blessing to your wife as well – love comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Diane

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  41. Wow! Thank you for the powerful reminders, Bill. Tonight I am teaching a class to a group of women and we will be focusing on Colossians 3:12-14. I noticed this is one the verses you mentioned! When I think of a great Christian, the words that come to my mind are: “loving, servant leader who is striving to be like Christ.”
    In my class, we will be discussing the woman Dorcas in the Bible and learning how she used her creative gifts to serve and love others.

    “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14).

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    • Thank you for your comments, Danielle.
      Dorcas is the perfect example of a Christian servant. I love the way the Bible sums-up her life of serving others: “Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did.” (Acts 9:36)
      (I like the Aramaic translation of her name better than the Greek:-)

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  42. Great post Bill…we have all seen, learned from and been inspired by God’s grace in both of you. What an amazing gift! Love you bro.

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  43. Bill always encouraging to read your posts – and I would agree with you about Mary!!

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  44. I don’t think she got the short end and I bet she doesn’t either.
    The greatest Christians are the ones who lead by their examples. Like Mary and Michele (have you been on Chris Picken’s Facebook page lately?) And Chris. And a resounding YOU!
    Bill I’ve sent the link here, to so many who need inspiration, strength and faith for whatever reasons. And many have come back to thank me.

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  45. Praising God with you for Mary! I am convicted today as I read that list of attributes. May God use it to encourage me in my walk with him, not for recognition as a great Christian, but as a useful servant. I really appreciated your insight into God’s Word today, my friend. God bless you and Mary.

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  46. Mary is the greatest christian I know as well as the best of friends. We are so blessed to have her in our family and I am thankful for that every minute of every day! Love you

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  47. So true-she is the most loving, giving person I know. You are so very lucky you found each other

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  48. Mary is, as her namesake, full of grace.
    Bill, you may have lost the health lottery but boy, what you have won!

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  49. Always a great way to start the day! 🙂

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  50. Thank you for sharing your heart. I agree with you…you are surrounded by true, loving Christians. Your words filled my spirit this morning, and brought me to tears. May God bless all of you:-)

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  51. “You will know them by their fruits.” Knowing your daughters, I would say you both stack up pretty well.

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  52. “You will know them by their fruits.” Knowing your daughters, I would say you both stack up well.

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  53. Without even meeting your wife, I can tell you she is an amazing woman. The role of a caregiver, the “or for worse” part of a marriage vow, goes largely unseen. A caregiver has to set aside everything in their own life to serve their spouse. Once a person has been down the road of a caregiver, their life is forever changed.

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    • Thank you, Patrick. I don’t think any of us really considers the worse case scenarios when we take our wedding vows. Maybe we should, but that could ruin the joy of that day.

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      • Your welcome Bill. When my wife told me she had breast cancer, I recalled my vow of “for better or for worse” and knew if I depended on God’s promises and strength, we would get through this problem(s). Five plus years out she is cancer free but the nerve damage and emotional toll continue. I keep hoping that some level of “normal” will eventually return. If not, God is still good!!! Patrick

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        • Yes, Patrick, whether we’re the one going through the trial or caring for the one going through the trial , you quickly realize you need more of God’s grace and He is more than willing to give as much as we need. I am so glad to hear that your wife is cancer-free!

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  54. I once saw a CNN news report about a man in India who had quit his job so that he could take care of the poor people he saw when he was going to and from work.

    He was so distressed that no one was taking any time nor making any effort to help them in any way, simply because of the traditional caste system they have there.

    When I saw that video, I thought to myself, this man is more Christ like than I’ve ever been or ever seen or heard of anyone being… and he doesn’t even know Christ!

    I am pretty sure he will hear the words “Well done my good and faithful servant” when the time comes. For he is doing what Christ commanded without even being told – it is simply on his heart.

    On a side note… “And, no, I didn’t just choose her as the greatest Christian out of fear that she’d stop feeding and clothing me.”

    You so funny! 🙂

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  55. You are so blessed to have Mary, and after reading this article, I can tell that Mary is blessed to have you, too!

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