In light of The Donald making news (everyday) again, I decided to write this post. It’s election time so naturally the pandering to the religious voter has been well under way for a period of time now. Unfortunately too many people allow candidates to buy their vote by simply saying the right words or adhering to a specific moral issue during election cycle. Due to this natural, every four year occurrence, I keep hearing the word Christian thrown around ad naseum. Yesterday, my weirdness meter went off inside my head and I decided to look into what that word means, where if at all it is used in the Bible, and what the context is surrounding the uses of it.
Much to my surprise the word is only used three times in the Bible, all in the New Testament obviously because prior to the New Testament there was no Christ therefore there was no Christian.
First, the word Christian is directly related to suffering or admonishment and second, “Christian” is not used in a hopeful, encouraging way.
Now I will say that for years I have been a stickler on not using “Christian” as an adjective but a noun. Thus no business, home, school, apparel, music is Christian; and scripture backs me up on this. In each occurrence the term is used as a descriptive noun. It is describing the disciples and worshippers of Jesus.
When the text surrounding each occurrence is unpacked we discover that the term wasn’t something the worshippers of Jesus coined themselves about themselves, but rather the Gentiles coined the term to describe and label those who followed Jesus. It wasn’t a pleasant thing but a slang term to classify them as different than culture. And be sure that ridicule and suffering followed.
During that time followers of Jesus referred to each other as brethren, disciples, servants, believers, and bondservants. It wasn’t until later in history around 300 A.D. that the term became accepted and used by Christians to describe themselves. When being a Christian became acceptable rather than ostracized in culture (thanks Constantine) people were no longer afraid to use the term to describe themselves publicly. We have been calling ourselves Christians ever since.
You probably know where I’m going with this by now. Jesus wasn’t a Christian. He was Jesus. “Christian” today is used as a descriptor of a subculture rather than a lifestyle. Christians are people who talk about God or Jesus, like Christmas, tip the cap to Easter and believe the Bible has some good moral stories we can read to be better people. When Jesus teaches his followers how the world will know they are his followers it isn’t because they are called Christians, or live in a christian subculture or live moral lives. Rather Jesus says in John 13:35 the indication all will know you are His disciple is the love you have for each other. And that “each other” is directly referring back to the word “disciples.” So how does the world, the “all,” know you belong to Christ? By the way you love other people who belong to Christ.
God created each of us to be loved and to love. Think of it as our Iron Man core. Love is what allows us to keep going every day. It is infectious. When people who do not know the love of God see the love of God from those who are known by God, that natural desire to be loved is flamed and begins to strike a longing to get in on it.
It’s toughest to love your family. It’s easy to love people who you don’t see on a regular basis or you don’t have expectations of. But those you see, you know the dirt on, their hypocrisy, it’s hard to love those people. I think it is no coincidence that Jesus details how His disciples would be known.
Loving your family well in the midst of those not in your family is how those not in your family will want to become part of your family.
Call me a Christian if you’d like. But may I be worthy of that label as those in Antioch and beyond were. Examine my love for the church.
Let me be labeled by love.