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Analysis of the Poem “Christian” - by Maya Angelou

Updated on January 31, 2018
Endy Noble profile image

Endy is a research enthusiast with passion in religious and social issues.

Analysis of 'Christian'

Angelou Maya, one of the finest poets in recent times presented a beautiful rendition 'Christian' at a time when Christianity or being a Christian was being misconstrued. Angelou through seven but deeply meditated stanzas presented to the world the lost meaning of Christian.

Most of us Christians had forgotten Christianity was birthed by the teachings of Christ, and Christ's lifestyles led to the aggregation of people who later called themselves Christian (Christ's Followers) and that salvation is a gift.

We have also forgotten that Christ did not come to condemn but to redeem those who are lost, guide those who are straying, give strength to those who are weak, clean up those who are in mess and bring relief to those in suffering and pain.

While other Christians brag of salvation without regard to humility onto which Christ’s redemption calls us, Angelou took a humble position through her poem.

The tone of the poem is not only humble, sincere and definitive. It’s also appealing even to our deepest part; our arrogant and forgetful soul, and sense of sensitivity. If we know we are saved ourselves, why do we accuse, judge and condemn other people? If we know being a Christian means being forgiven, why can’t we forgive other people? If we know Christ came and clean up our filthiness, why do we brag about our cleanness?

Angelou through a resounding, but an unvoiced question challenged men of faith in this poem. Although her title “Christian” links the poem directly to Christians, her message is universal and applies to people of all faith irrespective of our religion.

You can take a walk through faith with Angelou Maya, perhaps as a reminder to yourself of the meaning of Christian. She gave us in 'Christian' a deep, reflective, and powerful meaning of Christian.

Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.

— Angelou Maya

Christian –By Maya Angelou

When I say, "I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean livin'."
I'm whispering "I was lost,
Now I'm found and forgiven."

When I say, "I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
and need Christ to be my guide.

When I say, "I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak
And need His strength to carry on.

When I say, "I am a Christian"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed
And need God to clean my mess.

When I say, "I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
But, God believes I am worth it.

When I say, "I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say, "I am a Christian"
I'm not holier than thou,
I'm just a simple sinner
Who received God's good grace, somehow!

We Who Received God’s Grace

We all have received grace by taking the title 'Christian' and aligning ourselves with teachings of Christ. This grace we received is given to us by God. If we go by the provisions of laws or divine ordinations, we are supposed to express this same grace which we have received from God to other people by way of our lifestyle of self-giving. That means there is something expected of the life of a Christian aside the realization we have received God's grace. What is this something that is expected of us who had received God’s Grace?

We Who Received God’s Grace Should be Gracious

First of all, the gift of God’s grace is the gift of love, and as receivers of God’s love, we are expected to love other people especially those who are perhaps lost or yet to receive the grace as we have. This is one of the duties of Christians who had received God’s gift of love. Angelou demonstrated this graciousness in the humility she displayed through her poem.

We Who Received God’s Grace Should Lead Others' to Light

Also, as Christians and receivers of grace, we are to lead others to the fountain of God's overflowing love and mercy so that they can enjoy the grace we are enjoying even as sinners. This means we should show understanding, and bear with those who perhaps share a different faith or view other than ours. To lead, however, our lives must be graced with love, compassion and kindness. In this way, the light Christ brought to the world will shine forth through us to those yet to be witnesses. These people can only be attracted to light by our humble lifestyle and goodness. If they can’t see Christ in our lives and activities, they definitely won’t hear the Name of Christ we preach. We must let our lives win without the usual noise of empty words devoid of love and goodness.

We Who Received God’s Grace Must Forgive Others

Stanza (I) of Angelou's poem pointed to the fact that a Christian is a lost soul who was found and forgiven by God. That aligns with Christ's injunctions in the Great Commission where it is stated we are to preach the good news to people who are yet to be witnesses and teach them to forgive by examples of our own forgiveness. This fact contained in the Great Commission shows we must forgive as evidence we have been forgiven, and carry forgiveness with us as part of our commitment to 'Christianhood'.

The Great Commission specifies duties of a Christian who had received God’s gift of salvation in Christ. The chapter went further to prove we have to be coworkers with Christ: replicating Christ’s lifestyle of forgiveness and love to the world. Christ demonstrated a deeper sense of forgiveness when He said a prayer for those who crucified him, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). If we forgive in accordance with Christ's instructions, there should be no condemnation whatsoever. Angelou beautifully captured the quality of forgiveness in the above poem.

We Who Received God’s Grace Should Serve Others.

Christ in Luke 22:27 said, “Normally the master sits at the table and is served…but not here, for I am your servant." This message resonates in Angelou Maya’s 'Christian'. Christ demonstrated service when He washed his disciples' feet and expected us to do same as receivers of God's grace. We cannot do this, however, by putting on “I am holier than thou” attitude. We've to humbly admit we were saved by Grace not because we were holy. If then we were saved through God's forgiveness, we must take a test of love by practicing forgiveness, service to others, sacrifice, and self-giving.

Maya gave us a beautiful definition of 'Christian'. And as Christians who understand this meaning, we've to live our lives in line with the examples of humility, love, kindness, compassion, service, forgiveness and self-sacrifice as set before us by Christ. Until then, we must just be shouting, “I am clean living” as Maya pointed in line three of stanza (I).

© 2018 Ajodo Endurance Uneojo

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    • Endy Noble profile imageAUTHOR

      Ajodo Endurance Uneojo 

      8 weeks ago from Lokoja, Nigeria.

      Thank you, Mary.

      Maya is a person to admire.

      Glad you have a personal admiration for her.

      Blessings!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      8 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

      A beautiful poem from a person I truly admire and you have done a very inspiring analysis of what she is trying to tell us. Yes, without courage, we can't do anything else. By the grace of God only.

    • Endy Noble profile imageAUTHOR

      Ajodo Endurance Uneojo 

      6 months ago from Lokoja, Nigeria.

      Hello Harry Comfort.

      Thanks for leaving a feedback.

      I'm glad my analysis of Maya's poem is able to make you reflect.

      Maya Angelou's Christian is worth that deep reflection.

    • profile image

      Harry Comfort 

      6 months ago

      Wow! wonderful piece. It got me into looking in the inside to find my thoughts about Christianity in relation to Maya's writing and the analysis. Beautiful

    • Endy Noble profile imageAUTHOR

      Ajodo Endurance Uneojo 

      6 months ago from Lokoja, Nigeria.

      You are welcome Manatita,

      I just came across one of your poem "Come, Sweet Death". I would like to write a review on it. Meanwhile, endeavour to come up links to those you want me to review.

      Thanks!

    • janshares profile image

      Janis Leslie Evans 

      6 months ago from Washington, DC

      Beautiful article and analysis of a great Maya Angelou poem. Thank you for reminding us Christians that it's not about perfection; it's about humility and grace.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      6 months ago from london

      Thank you. God bless.

      Manatita

    • Endy Noble profile imageAUTHOR

      Ajodo Endurance Uneojo 

      6 months ago from Lokoja, Nigeria.

      Thanks Manatita,

      I'm glad you love this piece and appreciative for your kind words.

      As regards your request for review on your poem i will do that gladly.

      You can provide the link to them or send them to me via email. If you need my email let me know.

      Stay beautiful Sir.

      Blessings!

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      6 months ago from london

      My brother, you have written such a beautiful piece, such a sublime masterpiece and a lofty but attainable message of hope for us all.

      What a wonderful guide of how to not only live the christian life, but on how to be happy for each soul. Continue ... continue. God bless your Spirit.

      Note: I need a review on any one of my poems. Can I send you a couple to look at? Much Love.

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