Sunday, April 04, 2010

WHAT DO YOU CALL YOURSELF?

A while ago I stopped calling myself a Christian.  

Like if you asked me, "Are you a Christian?";  I might actually say to you, "Well, what do you mean by that?"  I've been tired of people calling themselves Christian and it meaning essentially nothing for a long time.

I met a homeless guy on Friday who told me he was "Christian".  I don't think "homeless" and "Christian" are necessarily incongruent.... but I asked him, "What does that mean to you?"  He seemed like a decent guy to me and wasn't intoxicated or crazy.  He calmly said to me that his dad was a pentecostal preacher and his mom was lutheran or something.  So he was a "Christian" because his parents were.  My conversations/observations around the world would prove that this is more typical than non.  Many would say you're a Christian in San Diego if you go to a church on some weekends and have a "Not of this World" sticker slapped on your car somewhere.  

I don't think that's even remotely close to what it means to be a "Christian".

Bottom line, it's a term very rarely even used in the Scriptures and today it has tons of baggage to it.  Often in the same way that words like "evangelical", "conservative", "liberal"... etc... also do- So I mostly try and avoid them.

But it's been a progression for me.  I'm not anti-categories.  I just think some categories are so vague they mean nothing.

Here's my personal progression.

CHRISTIAN:  has been reduced to a label that covers basically anyone who celebrates Christmas and Easter but not Hanukkah or Ramadan.  No longer means much to me.  Used to be a label I gave myself.  I initially thought I was a "Christian" because I went to church.

CHRIST FOLLOWER:  this is the "normal" language of my local church.  It's the generally accepted term of what it really means to be a "Christian".  Not just someone who goes to church, but someone who IS the church.  Someone who invites Jesus into their lives and then follows God's lead.   My problem is, this term is beginning to become kinda normal.  It's loosing it's pop and maybe it's value.  It's said so often, that people use it almost as casually as "Christian" in our context.

I had this thought the other day that sometimes I might actually follow Jesus so closely that my footsteps are literally right behind His.   But other times, I'll tell you "I'm following Jesus", but in reality, He is really far off in the distance somewhere.  I felt like I heard God say to me, "Are you following Me or tracking Me?"  There is so much "grace" in the following Jesus process, that we can get lazy.  I get lazy.

Perhaps it's just the nature of language.  I think anything that is said over and over again the exact same way will soon be ignored.   Sometimes my wife and I will change "I love you" to "I like you".  Honestly, sometimes the second means more than the first... mostly because of frequency of use.

So I might start using this phrase:

GOD-FEARER:   It's the title given to many in the book of Acts.  It's given to Cornelius, the first non-Jewish convert in Acts 10.  Proverbs 1:7 reminds us that the "fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom."  I'm sure that if I use it often, it will suffer the same fate as the other words I mentioned above, but for now, it's been good for me.  It's been a gut check every now and again to ask myself, "Am I following Jesus with the Fear of God in me?"  I think a healthy Fear of the Lord could go a long way to keeping me actually living like Jesus and not just claiming to.    I know a man who prays to to the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" just to bring clarity to the "Dear God" phrase.  It's an ancient label the Old Testament gives to clarify who the God of the Jews really is.  Maybe God-Fearer has a bit of that flare for me.  


So there you have it.  My brain spill on this belief label thing.  Got one you like better?

1 comments:

Amy 11:53 PM  

I don't have a better label, but I've been thinking about this "Christian" label too.

How I want to be in a different category from the random church goers with the fish on their car. How I don't want to be classified with the same people who claim to follow Christ but seem to mock the very things he asks of us.

But then I remember I once was that Christian, and sometimes I still am. For many of us our journey started with going to church, WWJD bracelets, and not much more. How annoying I must have been!

So I've been trying to show extra grace. Hoping that for many people that's where their journey starts, and not where it ends.

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Husband. Dad. Jesus Follower. Friend. Learner. Athlete. Soccer coach. Reader. Builder. Dreamer. Pastor. Communicator. Knucklehead.

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