Giving Up the “Christian” Title

Are you a christian?

Most who claim to be one would answer yes without a second thought. But what is a christian? Here’s how the word came into being:

“The disciples were called christians first at Antioch.” – Acts 11:26

Biblically, “christian” is a title someone else gives you, not one you give yourself. This is the opposite of how it works in our modern culture, in which “christian” has become something people call themselves. But this is as silly as a superhero calling themselves a hero. For example, spiderman came to be known as a hero not because he went around telling everyone he was a hero but because the people around him began to call him a hero when they saw the good he did. So, although by no means definite, a better indicator than what people claim about themselves is what the people around them say about them.

Are people seeing Jesus in you?

Just because someone calls themselves a christian doesn’t necessarily mean they really are one, and just because someone says they believe something doesn’t necessarily mean they actually do. There are people who believe in Jesus – that he is God, that he died, that he rose from the dead – but don’t believe the Gospel, the good news that resulted from who he is and what he did. Many so-called “christians” today profess the name of Jesus but still don’t know him. These people are not too different from the Pharisees, who professed the name of the true God but didn’t know him. They were “true Israelites.” Abraham was their father, as they liked to say. But their relationship was not with God but with rules.

Let’s ditch the pretending for a change and stop acting like everyone with some kind of platform who says they are preaching Jesus really is. – Ryan Rhoades

The true test is whether their so-called title and beliefs are manifest in their living. You will know a tree by its fruit. You will know what someone really believes not by what they say but by what they do.

Now, regarding myself and being a “christian”…

twainI might be a christian and I might not be one. It all depends on how you define it.

People’s definitions of a “christian” (and its synonyms such as “believers” or “disciples”) vary quite a bit. Some think whoever claims to be a christian is a christian. Some think it’s the people who love Jesus. Some people think it identifies a certain group of people who hold certain beliefs (and it even varies among each person what those “beliefs that are necessary to be a christian” are). Some think it is the people who have taken certain actions like saying a prayer or getting baptized. Some think it’s religious people who faithfully attend a church service every Sunday and vote republican. Some think it’s those who preach the “turn or burn” message on the streets with big signs that say things about how angry God is.

And nobody is right.

“Christian” is just a word. It wouldn’t matter if it had a “true definition” because we give it meaning by the way we use it. As demonstrated above, people use it very differently. So it’s meaning is unclear because it varies from person to person.

Methinks it varies too much for it to be a useful word.

I’ve decided to give up the “christian” title. I’m done trying to correct people’s misconceptions about “what a christian really is.” I will let people think what they want about that word, and I won’t associate myself with it. Too many people have given the “christian” title a bad reputation, and people tend to generalize the bad they see in one person who calls themselves a christian to every other person who calls themselves one. Whatever definition I hold for “christian,” when I use it to communicate and the other person doesn’t have a similar definition, it is bound to create misconceptions and cause confusion. That includes calling myself a christian. That could be all it takes for someone to keep themselves from truly considering anything I have to say. Sucks, but it’s reality.

But there’s no need to bear that load, and it is also unnecessary for others to have to deal with misconceptions about christians. If I want to tell someone about Jesus, but they carry a misunderstanding about some related term like “christian,” it would be a good idea for me to drop that term because the barrier it will create for them in getting to know Jesus is wholly unnecessary. All that’s needed is Jesus.

So, what do I call myself? I won’t consign my identity to a single descriptive word, because the same problem is bound to occur. Instead, I describe myself. I’m God’s kid. He’s my Daddy. Jesus lives in me. etc. And more importantly, I let my life show it.

If you would like to use words in the bible the way they are used in the bible, I suggest you quit calling yourself a christian too. As for myself, I generally won’t be calling myself a christian anymore. And instead I’ll see what the people around me will choose to call me.

2 thoughts on “Giving Up the “Christian” Title

  1. Pingback: Beliefs, Unity, and the Illusion of Denominations (Part 1) | Supernatural Gospel

  2. Pingback: Beliefs, Unity, and the Illusion of Denominations (Part 2) | Supernatural Gospel

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