"The Meaning of ‘Christian’"
April 18, 2005Email to a FriendPrint
If you suffer as a Christian … praise God that you bear that name. 1 Peter 4:16
Active in Lebanon’s civil war were military groups called “Christians.” They did what is usually done in war: kill, burn, destroy. They massacred whole camps of refuges. One has to bear in mind that “Christian” here referred to a political party who may have had only the vaguest identity with the Christian faith. We ask, are these Christians? People find this puzzling.
Also in other lands the “Christian” label can be misleading. The United States is sometimes called a Christian nation, probably because many of the citizens make a Christian confession. But officially America is not a Christian nation.
What does “Christian” mean? Historically the name was given to Jesus’ followers in Antioch around A.D. 43. Twice more they are called by this name in the New Testament writings: in the book of Acts, where King Herod Agrippa II is quoted as telling Saint Paul that he questions whether to be come a Christian (Acts 26:28), and in First Peter, where the apostle writes: “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed” (1 Peter 4:16).
Obviously, “Christian” is derived from the word “Christ.” It designates persons who believe in and follow Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Appointed One. Together they form the holy Christian church, the communion of saints. The creeds of Christendom – the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds – state what Christians believe, notably about the Triune God and about the person and saving work of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
Christian life is very important – what Christians say and do. This is what the outside world hears and sees. Christian life is based on the Ten Commandments, and the motive for it is the love that comes from Christ. It has been said that non-Christians do not read the four gospels – of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – but they do read the fifth gospel, that is, the gospel according to you as a Christian.
PRAYER: O Lord God, help me to be “Christian” (Christ-like) to my family and others. Amen.
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