Search the scriptures, and see if you can find it anywhere. You know, the “C” word. Don’t know what I’m talking about? “Christian.” People use the word, seldom considering its many meanings. As we talk with others, we find a multitude of definitions.
To the Muslim, it means the other religion.
To the atheist, it is the enemy.
To the Eastern, it means Western.
To the developing world, it means capitalist.
To the Catholic, it means Catholic.
To the evangelical, it means only those who are saved. (As if we can really know whether or not another person is saved.)
To the non-evangelical, it means the club to which he or she will never be admitted.
Yet we find rare references to it in the scriptures. Only three. Two are clearly spoken by church outsiders (Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28), and one in reference to a category of people persecuted by the Romans (1 Peter 4:16).
Jesus Himself never uttered the word, as far as we know. If Jesus’ immediate followers had been asked what the word meant, they would have had no basis for a definition.
It’s a word that first took form among the Jewish Roman persecutors of The Way. In the Fourth Century, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great ordained Christianity to be the official Church of Rome. He promptly saddled the new church with pagan alliances from his own pagan past.
Yet this new church was the work of man. He fashioned it with his hands and called it good. Though many worshipped the Lord with a pure heart in its sanctuaries, this new religion exalted a man-made god. So we should not call Jesus the founder of this “religion.” He never intended to found a new religion. In fact, pure and undefiled religion is caring for widows and orphans (James 1:27). Not an orthodoxy, but a selflessness.
Don’t look for any help from the Apostle Paul, either. He said all believing Gentiles were grafted into the Jewish heritage. Both Paul and Jesus never intended to depart from the Jewish faith, as far as we can tell. They would find it absurd that their followers would fixate on constructing a new religion.
Jesus rejected man’s attempt to invent religion. He referred to religion as wineskins that could not hold new wine. Jesus rejected worldly religious clout. He came. He loved. He related to others.
What does the word “Christian” mean to you?
Does it feel like an inclusive or exclusive word? Was Jesus exclusive or inclusive?
How does Jesus refer to his followers? Why?
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