Language is a funny thing. As language evolves a word that was understood to mean one thing at a certain point in history can come to mean something quite different years later. Communication becomes even more challenging when one individual or group uses the same word with a different understanding or intent than another individual or group. One of the words that this has happened to is “Christian.”
Few people realize that this word was originally used with disdain and contempt. In Acts 11:26 it says that it was in Antioch that the people who believed in Jesus Christ were first called “Christians.” The context makes it clear this was not intended as a compliment. Late in the first century a Roman author named Tacitus wrote that “The vulgar call them Christians,” again indicating that it wasn’t a term of endearment. It was not until the second century that believers began adopting the term as one of honour.
It seems to me that in our time the title “Christian” has, to some degree, fallen again into disrepute. It has been used to sell stuff, as political leverage (both for and against), and even to identify opposing combatants in warfare. Because of such misuse of the term it no longer universally holds the meaning it once did, and has even at times again become derisive.
For many the word is simply identified with a religion or religious system that’s used to control or manipulate people. But when the label was first applied it was typical of the way in which the Romans identified followers or disciples of a particular person, in this case Christ. So a “Christian” was simply one who followed Christ; a “Christ Follower.” I kind of like that.
I have noticed that there are a growing number of people today who are referring to themselves as “Jesus Followers” instead of Christians. Not that they would deny being a Christian, but they wish to get past all the preconceived perceptions that come with that term and express what, or rather who, their life is centered around.
All this leads me to ask a couple of questions of myself and of you. If you consider yourself a Christian does your day to day life show that you are also a Jesus Follower? Would the people who are closest to you recognise you as a Jesus Follower?
The Bible says that if you’re a “Christian” your life will be characterised by the things that characterised the one you follow: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.