You may find this hard to believe but many Christians are struggling with the word “Christian.” They find it hard to call themselves a Christian and it’s quite understandable in light of what I’ve read and have personally experienced as a fellow believer and follower of Christ. Personally, I believe that it is not so important what we as believers call ourselves as it is what Christ calls us and how we represent him in the world today.
From the time Jesus released his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit, he said that they would be his witnesses. He said that upon Peter’s confession that he would build his Church or ecclesia (which is translated to mean “a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly”). The reputation of the early believers by the communities and culture they affected earned them the moniker of Christian or “little Christ,” which in part was meant to be a sort of mocking or ridicule. Paul, John and others called themselves saints and beloved.
In times like now when there are so many people who have a view of the Church that is negative because they perceive Christians to be, according to research by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, “judgmental, hypocritical, too political, sheltered, too committed to getting converts and anti-homosexual,” you can see why some Christians shy from calling themselves “Christian.”
It is for this reason that I find that it is more important to display the character and nature of Christ than focus on what we’re calling ourselves. While we should not be ashamed to be named or associated with Christ, our lives should be the evidence of who we are more than what we call ourselves. For it is written that if we deny him before men, he’ deny us before his Father in heaven. However, if we will stand up for him, he too will stand up for us.
I think when God told Abraham that He would make his name great, that covenant promise extended to us. Because of this, our names to can be great, to the degree that we make His name great. If we represent Him poorly, it will likewise reflect poorly on us and others throughout the body of Christ. This means that we each bear the responsibility of living a life that speak well of Christ in word and deed.
What I find interesting in all of this is that Christ did not tell anyone what they should call themselves. He did not even focus on what they should call him. He only said that he and the Father were one, and that when you see him, you’ve also seen the Father. I think that as we go forth, our duty is to do likewise. We should desire that when others see us, that they will have had a glimpse of God, not that we would be concerned with what we’re called.
The world will do whatever it is they do. Our task is to do reveal Him and make Him known however He has individually and collectively designed us to do so.
QUESTION: Do you shy away from being called Christian? How does this change how you engage culture?