Will the Real Christian Please Stand Up?
Stop and think for a second...what images come to mind when you hear the word "Christian"? For some it might be a slightly crazed looking street preacher not exactly winning any social points as he yells at unsuspecting pedestrians. Or maybe you picture a shiny faced cheesy looking Ned Flanders who totes around a super size me Bible everywhere he goes? Then there are others whose minds conjure up a mail-clad Crusader knight with a "convert or I'll chop your head off in love" sort of attitude.
As you might have noticed, the word "Christian" typically brings up negative images. So negative in fact that I know some Christians who don't want to be called a Christian anymore.
How did it get so bad? When did a title with the name of our Savior in it become a label that ranks right up there with jerk or idiot?
Actually, about 2000 years ago:
The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch (Acts 11:26)
This is where the name first came from, and the hatred started right on the spot. It wasn't very long after the name came around that persecution did too. Keep in mind that I'm not talking about persecution as in being called a religious nut job. Christians in those days were crucified, beheaded, and thrown into stadiums full of people anxious to see them fed to wild animals.
The really interesting thing is that no Christian should be surprised that this title draws the wrath of the world. Jesus promised us that it would happen:
When the world hates you, remember it hated me before it hated you. The world would love you if you belonged to it, but you don't. I chose you to come out of the world, and so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? `A servant is not greater than the master.' Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you! The people of the world will hate you because you belong to me, for they don't know God who sent me. (John 15:18-21)
Did you pick up the theme here? Jesus didn't say "dislike" or "be offended by"...he said hate - as in a detesting and despising. He also didn't say "if" the world hates you - he said "when."
Why? What's so offensive about the word "Christian" that it has drawn harassment and mistreatment to those who claim it for over 2000 years?
Probably many reasons - including the real religious nut jobs who call themselves Christians and use that as an excuse to be self-righteous judgmental folks who give us a bad name and probably make Christ want to puke...but I digress. The biggest reason is because of what the word represents. The exact definition of Christian is actually "little Christ." The early believers picked up this nickname (meant as an insult - by the way, as in "you think you're a little Jesus, don't you?") because Jesus was so much a part of their life. They talked about Christ so often and with so many people, they became known as "little Christs" - basically the early version of "Jesus freak."
So the world hated Christ, and it still hates the "little Christs". It hates us because we have Jesus inside us, and as long as we try to honor God, the hate will continue.
Personally, I'm proud to be called a Christian - and when the persecution comes, I hope to have the same attitude as the first followers of Christ:
They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go. The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus (Acts 5:40-41)
So what images should come to mind when you hear the word Christian? Actually only one: the image of Christ and how he died so you could live with the honor of bearing his name and his message now and for eternity. Wear the name proudly - like you'd die for it, because someday you may have to...that's what it means to be a Christian.
Head: What you need to know about this truth
A Christian is someone who has placed his/her trust in Christ alone for salvation and now has Jesus living inside of him/her.
Heart: What you need to feel about this truth
Proud. Not because of anything that you've done, but because of everything He did. Think about it - being called a Christian is the highest compliment you could be paid. It identifies you as a follower of Jesus. Also you should feel motivated to live in a Christ-like way in everything you do and say.
Hands: What you need to do about this truth
As I mentioned earlier, there are Christians who don't want to be known as that anymore because of all the negative stereotypes and confusion surrounding the word. I say that's even more reason to go by that name! Hello - could you get an easier set up to witness?
"You're a Christian?"
"Yes - but I might not be a Christian like you think of the word."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I know that word can bring up a lot of negative images - but it actually was invented 2000 years ago. Can I tell you about it?"
Instant opportunity to be a Christian and give someone an opportunity to become one - which brings up a very important question:
Do you know how to tell someone how to become a Christian? Click here to learn the GOSPEL Journey.