I’ve struggled with what to call myself of late.
In light of 80% of evangelical Christians voting for Trump. In the wake of the church’s silence around Thanksgiving while Native Americans fight for their land. In a time where “Christian” is synominous with guns, hating gays, and ignoring racism, I’m not sure what to call myself anymore. A few weeks ago, I tweeted out I no longer could identify myself as an evangelical christian and I meant it. For me, the term has lost it’s definition and like the term “fundamentalism” in the early 20th century, perhaps evangelical should retire.
So the obvious question presents itself, what should I call myself now? What label should I replace with evangelical or even christian that identifies me as someone captivated by the person of Jesus and his teachings?
What term should I give myself?
Maybe that’s where the problem lies.
The first time the term “Christian” was ever used in history is recorded in the Bible.
So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. -Acts 11:26
What’s interesting is the term was not created by the church. It was created by the surrounding culture in an effort to explain who these people were and why they were acting the way they were acting. See, the first followers of Jesus lived such radical, selfless, humble, servant lives, it forced the observers to come up with an explanation. A term. Observers came up with “Christian” and it stuck.
The term “Christian” was given, not taken.
Could it be, you and I call ourselves Christian, not because of some allegiance but because of insecurity. Do we hide behind this label we have taken for ourselves in order that we don’t have to actually live it? Is it more comfortable to associate with a group so we don’t have to take any individual responsibility? I know it’s been that way for me. I can critique the church’s mishandling of refugees or the LGBTQ community or black lives and ignore my neighbor, walk past a homeless person and flip off a commuter all while identifying with the very group I critique.
What if you and I had no label, and we let observers label us. Would they pick the term “Christian”? It seems as if the first followers of Jesus took this dare. Is it better for our culture to give this term to us rather than receive it? To bestow instead of bombast. To be inspired versus impose.
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” -Acts 20:35
It’s strange to think about, but could we actually grow in our imitation of Christ by no longer identifying as Christian? I honestly don’t know. I do know I’m tired of the excuses and division. I’m sick of the rhetoric and the platitudes. The most honest term I can come up with for myself right now is “someone trying to follow Jesus… and most days failing.”
I do know I’m more interested in what my non-Christian friends would label me then threatening the precious ego of the institutional church. I’d like to be transformed and I’m pretty sure the only way to do it is to surround myself with honest outsiders fairly assessing what I claim to believe on the inside. I believe God is love and therefore his followers should be the most loving people on the planet. I believe a flickering candle doesn’t need a spotlight on it for people to see it glow. I do believe it’s better to give than to receive. May my life produce a label from those impacted by my love. And may it stick.