Should We Use the Name “Christian”?

rp_christian-300x155.jpgI previously asked you to give your thoughts on using the name “Christian” to describe people who follow Jesus Christ.  You can read that post and the comments here.

I’ve seen more and more friends and people in the media withdraw from using this term.  They will typically say that they believe in Jesus, but they no longer identify with the Christian label.  Instead of Christian, they will call themselves something along the lines of  a follower of Christ.

Honestly, this is really just semantics, because they Christian means one who follows Christ.

Unfortunately in America (I really can’t speak much for other cultures) Christians have by and large earned a bad rap.  There have been too many financial scandals, political pressures, celebrity icons, coupled with a generally judgmental and condemning attitude towards the culture for that culture to really take Christianity very seriously, or better yet to experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ through the church.

How “Christians” Were Named

Christians didn’t choose to be called anything.  It was the culture around them that first used to term Christian to describe the people who were following Christ.

Frank Viola writes in The Untold Story of the New Testament Church:

The church in Antioch has grown so large that Barnabas can no longer care for it on his own.  He remembers Saul and recalls that Saul speaks Greek, that he is from the Hellenistic city of Tarsus, and that the Lord called him to minister to the Gentiles.

Barnabas heads out to Tarsus to search for Saul.  After searching the city, he finds Saul and brings him back to Antioch.  The two men spend a year strengthening the church there.  Barnabas is doing most of the ministry, and Saul is an apprentice to him.

In Antioch, Saul lives with Simon of Cyrene (also called Simeon), his wife, and his two sons, Rufus and Alexander.  Simon’s wife cares for Saul and acts like a mother to him.  (Simon carried the cross of Christ.)  The believers are first designated “Christians” (Christ’s people) in Antioch.  They do not call themselves Christians, nor is this name given to them by the Jews (for the Jews do not believe that Jesus is the Christ – the Messiah).  It is rather given to them by their Greek-speaking neighbors.  The reason?  The believers are constantly talking about their Lord, just as Jesus constantly talked about His Father.  The Christians in Antioch are consumed with Jesus Christ, and out of the abundance of their hearts their mouths speak.  The new movement is also called “The Way” – a term the Christians use for the way of salvation and the way of life.  In Palestine, the Christians are known as “Nazarenes”.

Again, it was the culture that defined the name.  In today’s culture, the name Christian has widely been redefined from meaning “consumed with Christ” to meaning “hateful, judgmental, bigoted, legalistic, controlling, selfish, hypocritical” and so on.

And this is a sad reflection of the condition of the church today.

How I Use the Term “Christian”

Personally, I will sometimes use the term “Christian” in a very general sense to identify with the historical church of Jesus Christ.  But I would typically use the term with other Christians.

If I’m talking with someone that I suspect has a negative view of Christians and the “Christian” issue comes up, I would say that I do follow Jesus, but I do not really identify much with Christianity as it exists today.  Sometimes this will even open a door to some discussion about Jesus and the church.

I also like the term “life in Christ” instead of “the Christian life”.  I think “life in Christ” focuses more on the life being in and through Jesus, not me.

Unfortunately, the bride of Christ has been hijacked by many so-called leaders who have abused and misrepresented what she stands for.

I long for the day when the culture once again sees a church consumed with Christ and calls her “Christian”.

Follow the Life!


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4 thoughts on “Should We Use the Name “Christian”?

  1. yes I too have been hesitant to use that term for my identity–im not sure what term to use except I do like the term of–Christ indwelt.

    • That’s great, too. I think it’s good as long as you express what is in your heart.

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