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What Is a Christian, Really?

September 3, 2013

Isn’t it funny that the ninth month of the year is called SEPTEM-ber? At least if you know your Latin, because then you know that septem means seven, not nine – so September should really be the seventh month. As a matter of fact, it was the seventh month in the ancient Roman calendar, until 46 B.C. when the start of the year moved from 1st March to 1st January (don’t ask me why). This means that we’ve been two months out of sync for 2058 years!!
I guess that just goes to show how strong the power of tradition is; the months retained their names even when the names weren’t accurate any more. I wonder if people grumbled at the time?
Another word that seems to have changed its meaning over 2000 years is Christian. What does it mean? People who don’t believe in Jesus tell me they are Christians. Others talk about living according to Christian values, but don’t always know what those values are. And then the concept of Britain being a Christian country – is it really?
Christians were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26), among non-Jewish people who needed a label for this new, enthusiastic group of people. Since they were forever going on about Jesus “the Christ”, the anointed one, they called them Christians.
So that’s the first point of definition: nobody can claim the title Christian if they ignore Jesus. Nothing can be described as Christian if it doesn’t have anything to do with Jesus.
Secondly, it was the followers of Jesus that were called Christians. Not a building. Not an organisation. Not a country. Only people.
Thirdly, the Christians were disciples. They were people who had given their lives over to Jesus, to follow and serve him, and adjust their lives in accordance with his wishes. Being a Christian was more than having certain religious preferences, moral values or inherited traditions (none of the early disciples was born a Christian!); it affected everything, because Jesus – who died and came back to life – was their Lord, King and God.
That is the touchstone by which you can determine if you, your values or your country are Christian: is Jesus revered as Lord and obeyed as King? Are his death and resurrection central to faith and practice? If the answer is “no”, the label “Christian” isn’t quite correct!


From → Christianity, Faith, Jesus

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