So you call yourself a Christian. What does that mean?
What is a Christian? Can you define what one is? Can you define what you are? If someone walked up to you on the street and asked you why you think you are a Christian, what would you tell them?
If you Google “Christian” you’ll get more than 25 million hits and enough definitions to fill a dumpster.
We must have plenty of Christians though. Despite a cargo ship of definitions of what a Christian is, according to a 2009 Gallup poll 78% of the U.S. population says they are Christians. According to a 2010 Gallup poll 43.1% of Americans report, “weekly or almost weekly church attendance.”
Some Catholics I know say they’re Christians. Some who believe in abortion claim to be Christians. A few folks who call themselves Christians believe you can lose your salvation. Other denominations believe they are the only ones going to heaven. Some denominations believe you have to be baptized to be a Christian. They believe if you’re not baptized you’re not saved, ergo you’re going to hell. Some homosexuals call themselves Christians. Some folks who call themselves Christians believe it’s a sin to hold worship with an orchestra or band. Some folks who call themselves Christians believe the only true Scriptural truth is in the New Testament and the Old Testament is irrelevant.
We Christians are all over the board when we try to define who and what we are.
Here’s a definition for you:
“Christians are judgmental, homophobic moralists who think they are the only ones going to heaven and secretly relish that everyone else is going to hell.”¹
Does that describe you? Or a friend? Or maybe it describes someone you know who hates Christians.
We could go to the Bible for some help defining what a Christian is. That presents a problem, though, because the word Christian appears only three times in the Bible (KJV)†
The Gentiles and Jews who followed Jesus and believed His teaching did not call themselves Christians. In fact the ones who used “Christians” to describe Jesus’ followers used the word to insult or demean Jesus’ followers. The ones outside looking in were the ones who called them Christians.
Let’s see if God’s word can help. In Matthew 28:19 does God’s word say, “Therefore go and make Christians of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?”
Not in my Bible. My Bible says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” NASB
In John 13:34-35 does God’s word say, ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are Christians, if you love one another.”?
Not in my Bible. My Bible says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” NASB
Now there’s a word we can get our arms around–disciple. Nice uncomplicated definition too: “One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another (In our case, Jesus). A follower, a pupil, an adherent, a learner.” According to the OED the word disciple comes from the Latin word, discere “to learn”.
Now that’s what I’d like to be called, “a disciple.” Remember John 13:35? Jesus teaches us, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Love one another. If we love one another we are true disciples of Jesus. “Love one another” skirts every single complicated nuance about what it means to be a Christian.
But, my neighbor throws his garbage in my yard. . . .Love one another.
But, my boss hates Christians . . .Love one another.
But, I caught my husband in bed with another woman . . .Love one another.
But she physically abuses her children . . .Love one another.
But my nephew owes me a thousand dollars and he won’t pay me back. . .Love one another.
But they broke into our home and stole all our money. . .Love one another.
But she’s an atheist and ridicules me constantly. . .Love one another.
But our son is on drugs and steals to support his habit. . .Love one another.
But my marriage is falling apart . . .Love one another.
We show how much we love Jesus when we love one another.
We preach better sermons than our pastor when we love one another.
We witness to non-believers when we love one another.
We develop brothers and sisters in Christ when we love one another.
We show ourselves to be Jesus’ disciples when we love one another.
Yeah, I think I want to be a disciple.
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A video message by Senior Pastor Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church; Atlanta, Georgia inspired this blog message. ¹From Andy Stanley's Palm Sunday message, "Christian" at North Point Community Church, Atlanta, Georgia, April 1, 2012 †Note: Other legitimate versions, e.g. NAS, NIV, ASV, contain seven references to "Christian".