What does it mean to be a Christian? It may sound like an odd question in a religious blog, but I believe it is a question worth asking. Why? Because it gets misused a whole lot in our everyday language, and language often helps form our thoughts and attitudes about things.
The word was first applied to disciples of Jesus in Antioch of Syria (Acts 11:26). Why? Well, because it was recognized that they were followers of Jesus Christ and their behavior was deliberately Christ-like—they were Christ-ians. But today is is often applied to anyone who claims a belief in God. In its general use, the word Christian has ceased to mean that the wearers of the name would think, speak, or act like Jesus would—only that they’re religious and not Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or something else. And that’s a real shame, because I believe that disciples chose to wear this name as a clearcut reminder of what they should be in everyday living.
May I mention just a few major ways…
Christians should bear Christ’s respect for the Bible. Jesus had great respect for the Scriptures. He knew that they should not be changed to accommodate man’s traditions (Matt. 15:1ff), that God’s word must be obeyed (Lk. 18:18-20), that God’s word must be the last word in spiritual matters (Matt. 22:29), and that they give life (Matt. 5:39 and Luke 16:29-31). Thus, Christians should lift up the Scriptures higher than any creed, tradition, man-made doctrine, theology, or commentary. Christians must do more than just read the Bible, they need to do it. Christians will neither add to nor take from the Bible’s simple, straightforward teachings. And Christians will certainly always look to God’s, not man’s, word for its words of life.
Christians should bear Christ’s love for others. Christ did more than just teach about love, He is the perfect example of it. He showed compassion to the multitudes (Matt. 9:36), compassion to individuals (John 8:1-11), loved even His enemies (Lk. 23:34), and gave Himself for our sin (2 Cor. 5:21). And Christians, too, must follow His example of love toward fellow Christians (John 13:35), love for all men (Gal. 6:10), love for enemies (Rom. 12:20), and even love for persecutors (Rom. 12:14). These are exhibited and known through Christian fellowship, kind deeds, kind words, and always doing good in return for either evil or good.
Christians should bear Christ’s attitude and conduct. Without question Jesus was zealous for God’s things (John 2:17), completely committed (Matt. 26:39), and sinless (Heb. 4:15). Therefore, Christ-ians are to be zealous, excited, full of passion for God’s will (Titus 2:14), really committed to following the Lord wherever He leads (Rom. 12:1,2), and morally upright (Eph. 5:1-5). Courageous, whole-hearted, completely-living-to-Christ living makes the world sit up and take notice that there’s something important going on. Luke-warm, half-hearted, “good enough” discipleship isn’t really discipleship; and the world sees, recognizes, and is repulsed by it in the end.
But not only are we missing a clear reminder of who we are to become, when we aren’t aware of the meaning of the name Christian, but we also stand in danger. Those who wear such a holy name need to honor it, not bring reproach upon it. Paul warned, (Romans 2:24) “For ‘THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,’ just as it is written.”
Let us proudly wear the name of Jesus Christ through the name Christian; but let us remember what it requires of us, so that we may live faithfully and give honor to Him who not only has given us new life but has given us a new way to live.
Are you a Christ-ian?