Identity crisis

I confess to a stew of emotions when people ask me if I’m a Christian.  It’s a loaded term.  I’m always afraid that there is some ulterior motive prompting the query.  What do they really want to know?

Their intent could be completely innocent, such as, am I something other than a Jew or Muslim?  More likely, they’re trying to determine if I’m one of those right-wing-fundamentalist-flag-waving-gay-bashing-narrow-minded-Tea-Party-activist-home-schooling-repressed-wacko-red-state types. I am most definitely not one of those.

For reasons related to such ambiguity, I tend to stay away from calling myself a “Christian”.  Interestingly, the scriptures don’t use that term to describe the adherents to the faith of which Jesus is both pioneer and perfecter.  Although its literal meaning is “little Christ” – a phrase with which I am perfectly comfortable, but of which I am entirely undeserving – it was used solely by people outside the church for those inside, mostly in a pejorative sense.

It seems as though little has changed since first century Antioch when and where the term was first used.  People often still utilize it to express disdain today.  I don’t deny the title – the apostle Peter himself said we should not be ashamed of it, but bear the “insult” as a badge of honor.  Unfortunately it has lost much of its meaning in contemporary usage.

Personally, I prefer to refer to myself as a follower of Jesus.  The most important implication of this moniker is that it signifies activity.  Following is an action.  For similar reasons, I’m not crazy about the term “believer”.  What I believe is not nearly as important as what I do.  In the Gospel stories, we see demons professing “belief” in Jesus as Messiah.  A lot of good it does them… or us.

Jesus tells us that the only proof that we are His is that we do what he says.  I love the way Jesus’ good friend John puts it.  “This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”  Living as Jesus did.  That’s my calling.  God knows how far I fall short of that mark, but I find nothing else worth living for.

Another problem I have is being lumped in with what passes for Christianity in modern Western society.  Christians today seem to be known by what they don’t do – we don’t smoke, swear, drink, dance, or watch R-rated movies.  I firmly believe Jesus wants us to be known by what we do.  We should feed the hungry, visit the lonely, and hang around with individuals that “respectable people” wouldn’t be caught dead with.  We should upset the religious status quo.  In other words, we should do just what He did.

I have no problem abstaining from those things that are harmful to myself, my family, and society.  I do have a problem with ignoring social ills and the needs of others all for the sake of establishing some sort of “personal purity”.

Note that I’m not necessarily living up to these ideals.  Unfortunately, I’m maintaining the hypocrisy for which Christians through the ages have been so justifiably renowned.  But they are the goals He set for us, not to earn His love and grace, but to show our gratitude for them and, hopefully, show others the way to experience them.  We are merely beggars showing other beggars where to find food.

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About rickconti

It's not about me, remember?
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5 Responses to Identity crisis

  1. JT says:

    So does that mean you’re a “left-wing-flag-burning-gay-activist-liberal-minded-ACLU-member-child-sacrificing-unrepressed-wacko-blue-state type”? I think I can assume that you are saying that you aren’t someone that can be easily labeled and nothing more.

    And BTW, Acts 11:26 implies nothing pejorative about the use of the moniker “Christian”. But this is all just semantics, like the evolution of every other label or categorization. Colored becomes Black becomes African-American. Shell-shock becomes Hyperactive becomes ADD becomes ADHD. Labels become stale or begin to imply negativity due to the way society’s use of them evolves. At one time they were fine, now they are not. Just another opinion.
    -JT

  2. rickconti says:

    Finally, some controversy! I’d always heard that the term was originally meant as an insult, so I did some research. Every commentary on this verse that I read confirmed that. Also, it’s implied in the context of Peter’s exhortation. It’s a classic case of something intended to be negative taken as a positive.

    The fact is that it doesn’t matter. Today, Christophobes use it as an insult, that’s for sure, usually pairing it with “right-wing”, “fundamentalist”, or some other wrongly implied label.

  3. JT says:

    First, let me correct my mixed metaphor. I intended to say “Shell shock becomes battle fatigue becomes PTSD” and “Restless becomes Hyperactive becomes ADD becomes ADHD”. I, unfortunately, was interrupted mid-type and, as stated earlier, mixed my metaphors.

    As to the name “Christian” I still say it’s semantics. I found the following definition of the word:
    The Greek word Χριστιανός (christianos)—meaning “follower of Christ”—comes from Χριστός (christos)—meaning “anointed one”—with an adjectival ending borrowed from Latin to denote adhering to, or even belonging to, as in slave ownership.

    This definition is the same as the “Follower of Jesus” label you have chosen. In fact I like that “belonging to” concept. I think you are just trying to avoid the connotation and stereotypes of modern usage.

    Furthermore, I think that avoiding the use of the name “Christian” flies in the face of the sentiment expressed by Peter. He says, “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” Sounds like we should embrace it and “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
    -JT

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