I put a request for blogspiration on Twitter the other day. This was one response that I got back.
I’m going to break this down into a few different of sections.
I think labeling Jesus as a Christian is putting the cart before the horse.
Let’s look at where the term comes from.
26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
I think that an interesting observation is that it wasn’t a term that the early believers chose for themselves. Others chose the name for them.
It is actually a diminutive term. It means “Little Christ.” The belief is that it was a pejorative term, used as a “put down” against the early believers.
Also notice that this was in Antioch. This was the practical birthplace of the Gentile Church. Gentile means, everyone that isn’t Jewish. The first believers in Jesus as the Messiah were Jewish people, who firmly believed that Jesus was the foretold Jewish Messiah.
In that view, Jesus was supposed to save Israel from the other nations, and set the nation up as the premier among all of the nations.
Yeah, didn’t quite turn out that way…did it?
Point being: No one was choosing to call themselves Christian.
If you look at the Gospel Accounts, you see Jesus referring to himself primarily as “The Son of Man.” Every now and then he refers to himself as God’s Son. Others often referred to him as Rabbi, Teacher, Anointed One, and of course Christ.
Pro Tip! Christ = Anointed One!
I would agree that Jesus never called himself a Christian. But, I wouldn’t agree that he did it was because he had something against the label. Mainly, I would argue that he did it because 1) it didn’t exist within society at that time, and 2) he chose how to refer to himself based upon how he wanted his message understood.
Now, that is another whole blog post.
So, is it ok for us to be using it today?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, “Yes.”
It is a perfectly good label, in that it attaches the Person to whom they confess to follow…aka, Jesus. The one referred to as Christ throughout the New Testament.
Are there reasons that people decide to not use the label?
You bet there is. Like any label that has been in use for some 2000 odd years, there has been some baggage attached to it.
In some cases, the term “Christian” has come to carry some very negative connotations along with it.
I might argue that “that” isn’t so very different from the first century as well. People were trying to spread around horrible rumors using the term back then. If you were labeled a “Christian,” then it meant you were following a dead man. It meant that you were a cannibal, drinking that dead man’s blood and eating his flesh. It meant you were in some sort of semi-Jewish cult. It meant you hated governmental authority, and were an all around bad seed.
I think that for those of us that claim to identify with Jesus, need to do so with some thought.
Do I still use the term Christian?
You bet I do. It is a historically vibrant word. It speaks to a lineage beyond that of modernity; and connects me with folks back thousands of years.
Do I choose to use terms other than Christian at times?
You bet I do. I live in Texas, the buckle on the bible belt! Everyone and their dog claims to be a Christian around me; yet I rarely see anyone trying to actually follow Jesus. So, I use differing terms when I speak to someone to get a sense of where they are in the religious spectrum.
I go with terms like, “Follower of Jesus , Believer, and Disciple.”
Can someone be a true follower of Jesus, yet choose to not use the term “Christian” as a term of identity?
Yes, I think they can. But, I believe they have to be intentional about it.
Next week, I drill into the second part of the question:
So what if someone followed the Gospels but disregarded most of the NT…
Thanks for tuning in!