Who called whom a Christian?

I’m re-sharing an old post from 2010, because in light of all the vitriol and anger and rhetoric we’ve seen and heard in the last few weeks, it’s something to think about, and a good reminder that just because we slap a “Christian” label on something (or someone, or ourselves)  that doesn’t make it so… 

FW :Jesus fish.
Does more than one make you MORE Christian?

Bestselling author Anne Rice’s recent Facebook announcement that she has “quit Christianity” garnered a deluge of media attention. After years as a self-avowed atheist followed by a public return to the faith of her childhood – Catholicism – Rice said she is done with organized religion. Her announcement incited a vitriolic stream of criticism from Christians questioning her salvation, her faith, and her morals.

To be perfectly honest, I totally understand where she’s coming from. (Ducking now to avoid stones.)

If you’ve never encountered “friendly fire” in church – in the form of gossip, condemnation, oppression, legalism, rejection, etc. – count yourself among a very blessed minority. Let’s face it, there are a lot of mean, hateful, hypocritical people sitting in pews and standing behind pulpits every week. Don’t get me wrong, there are thousands – nay, millions – of people in churches who are loving, genuine, and kind, too. People who are earnestly seeking to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. Unfortunately, it’s the spiteful, critical ones who tend to have the loudest mouths, carry the biggest picket signs, and make the most damaging waves. And they are usually the first ones to stand up and call themselves the true defenders of Christianity.

But what is it that makes one a Christian? Is it a Jesus fish car emblem? A shiny gold cross? A church membership card? Which version of the Bible you read? The kind of music you listen to, the clothes you wear, your hair length, or the movies you watch? Is the evidence of your faith limited to the Thomas Kincade lithograph on your wall?

The bigger the cross???

Most of us, if we have any understanding of the Gospel, are quick to say “no.” Christianity is based solely on our belief in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who accepted the price of all the sin of humanity and suffered the consequences for us in his death on the cross, and then was raised from the dead by the power of God, having paid our debt so that we can be set free. All we have to do, according to Romans 10:9-10, is confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead. And we will be Christians.

Right? Not exactly. Romans 10:10 actually says “you will be saved.”

So where did the Christian label come from? Jesus never called anyone Christians. He didn’t say, “I’m starting a new religion, and I shall call it Christianity, after Myself.”

Christian shows up in only three places in the Bible – Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16. A derivative of Christ (Greek for “Anointed One”) the word Christian literally means “an adherent or follower of Jesus.”

Here’s the funny thing. Those early followers of Jesus didn’t call themselves Christians. Acts 11:26 says “…and they were first called Christians at Antioch.”

Get that? They were CALLED Christians, by other people. Jews and idolators and atheists and agnostics labeled them. Not just for what they professed, but for what they did. Throughout the book of Acts we see the followers of Jesus going out into all the known world and healing the sick, sending aid to victims of famine, helping widows and orphans, raising the dead, setting the oppressed free. Everywhere they went, they did the same things Jesus had done. They “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.” They continued His mission without missing a beat. And the people around them saw Christ in them.

Christian In Action
I want that. I want someone who has never known the love of God, never felt His healing power, never understood the depth of His mercy and grace, to encounter Him in me and say, “You must be a Christian” based on what I do, not just what I say.

I hesitate to say “I’m a writer.” Any shmuck can declare him or herself to be a writer, but until someone else acknowledges what you do, it doesn’t mean much. I can tell anyone I’m a wife. But if I don’t do wife-stuff – or worse, if I do anti-wife stuff – haven’t I claimed wifely status in vain?

 The third commandment given to the Hebrews when they came out of Egypt says this: “You shall not use or repeat the name of the Lord your God in vain [that is, lightly or frivolously, in false affirmations or profanely]; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Ex 20:7 AMP

What if that means more than just not using “Jesus Christ” as a curse word, or not typing OMG at the end of a text? If I call myself by the name of the Lord (Christian) lightly, frivolously, or falsely – without any of Christ’s character, nature, or substance to back it up – is that taking His name in vain? It’s something to consider. Maybe we should stop being so quick to label ourselves, and let the people we’re supposed to be reaching  call ’em like they see ’em, although we may find the truth hurts.

Red Letters by Tom Davis

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