I’m a Christian. I am a Christian. I. Am. A. Christian. It’s a simple phrase, but I often have a hard time saying it. At least lately. It was easier to claim to be a Christian when I wasn’t even going to church!
I guess the thing that I wanted to avoid with using the term Christian was the stigma it unfortunately carries with it. Christian has come to mean (to a lot of people) judgmental, self-righteous, picketing, finger-pointers. Christians are a group of people that make others feel bad for their mistakes and short-comings. Christians stand around on street corners telling people they’re going to hell. Christians sit in pews, sing hymns, and listen to a preacher (who doesn’t seem to live in the real world) tell them about all the things they have to stop doing (or need to start doing).
That is why I didn’t want to be called a Christian.
I used terms like follower of Jesus or disciple of Christ in a vain attempt to distance myself from this arrogant majority. Really, it’s all the same thing. I just didn’t want to immediately have a wall thrown up by someone who (like myself) had been hurt by the church (or church-goers, to be more accurate).
Jesus used the terms disciples, followers, apostles, and even fishers of men to describe His most faithful companions. The term Christian wasn’t used until much later in the story (Book of Acts), and it was initially used as an insult, kinda like we would say someone is imitating a famous person and ridiculing them for it – Jesus Jr, Jesus freak, Jesus clone, or little Christ (which is actually the most accurate translation of Christian).
I’m more okay with people giving me a hard time for my faith than lumping me together with people that would rather be hateful than loving (which was what Jesus said would distinguish His disciples). Picketing an abortion clinic, gay bar, or strip club, telling people God hates them and that they’re going to hell is not loving – no matter how you dress it up. (“I’m being loving by warning them what they’re headed for!”)
I. Am. A. Christian.
I can dress it up however I like, the fact remains that I am a Christian.
I like to think I’m a different type of Christian (I mean, there’s only like 4,000 denominations) than a lot of those I come across online or interact with in real life. I have no desire to be an elitist I was raised to be. I don’t want to be a part of a members-only club I thought I was supposed to seek after. Further, I refuse to get on board with the Conservative American Evangelical Christian party line!
I want to be love. I want to embrace others and celebrate them for who they are. I don’t want to live in fear of their sinfulness rubbing off on me. I don’t want to do anything except be like Jesus. The funny thing is that the only people He regularly said anything harsh to were those that were part of the overly religious, entrenched in tradition, following the law regardless of who they trampled in the process – namely, the Pharisees.
Christians, in my mind, had come to be the equivalent of Pharisees in our time. Well, in the words of Randal in Clerks 2 (it’s a horrible movie for Christians, don’t watch it), “I’m taking it back!” The label Christian should be synonymous with Jesus, not the Pharisees. It’s time we take a stand and declare, “I am a Christian!” I’m not like the guy who persecuted you for what you do for a living or the gal who condemned you for what you did last night – I love you for who you are.
See, the worst thing you can say about a Christian is that they are nothing like Jesus. Jesus didn’t condemn sinners, He hung out with them. He didn’t judge people for where they were, He showed them what they could be. He didn’t fight with violence, He brought peace and love into every situation.
Jesus’ mission on earth was one of reconciliation – He came to show the world that God was not Who they thought He was. He came to show the love of the Father to all humanity, not to make humans clean enough for God to look at or talk to, but to restore how we perceived Him. If we are still (falsely) showing the world a hateful, vengeful, wrathful, angry God, we are undoing the work Jesus came to do… Nothing is more anti-Christ than that.
I am not perfect. I don’t always treat everyone with totally unconditional love and grace. It’s a struggle, sometimes, to not judge others. (You’ve been to Walmart, right?) But I can’t (shan’t?) judge others and love them at the same time – the two are diametrically opposing actions! Love is unconditional. Grace is unending. Period.
I will allow Christ to finish within me the work that has been started… To be just like Him. I am a Christian.