Everette had some paperwork to fill out at a hospital a couple weeks ago, and was asked
'What faith/religion are you?'
Hmmmm, that stumped him for a moment. In the past he would likely have said "Christian" like a natural reflex-response. But that night, he was more aware that he wasn't living a life on auto-pilot, doing as he'd been taught and what was expected. He was more purposefully aware of the life he was living and the road he was walking on.
If he said he was 'Christian', he was thinking that around here it has definite Roman Catholic connotations to it....and we aren't Catholic. And if people took 'Christian' as being Protestant, which of the many denominations of Protestantism would we be? We both grew up in a Pentecostal church, but we raised our oldest 2 daughters mainly in a Fellowship Baptist church, but now our youngest 7 have really grown up outside of organized church. Are we still even Protestant? (And if we are, what are we protesting?)
I know that 'Christian' means 'follower of Christ', but honestly its had a bad name for years. I mean, what does the general public think about 'Christians'? Do people really see the average 'Christian' as somebody who is living the way that Jesus would if He was walking the streets today and running a business in our country today? The crowds flocked after him, wanting to hear what He had to say. He was relative to their lives, and gave them a hope. Does the public today want to hang out with 'Christians', interested in what they have to say or offer? Would they actually aspire to do like 'Christians' do? To have a life like they live?
Since we've stopped going to church, it almost seems that people cannot compute in their own minds that we could possibly love and follow Christ and yet not attend a church. Cuz, doesn't 'Christian' mean 'church attender'? Don't good 'Christians' teach Sunday School and VBS, and go to prayer meetings? I admit, I used to judge people who no longer went to church as 'backsliders'. I couldn't understand that they could ever grow deeper in the Lord if they weren't regularly sitting in a pew swallowing whatever the guy behind the pulpit spooned out to them.
Labels categorize. Yes, they are a generalization. Everybody within that label or category is painted with the same paintbrush. For the good or the bad.
And that is precisely one reason why I am uncomfortable with using the label 'Christian'. I don't want to be lumped in with the rest of those who claim they are 'Christian' and yet don't even really know the Christ they supposedly are following. They might go to church and warm a pew or even tithe and teach a Sunday School class, but do they have a relationship with Christ? I believe this to be a common (if not the majority) scenario with 'Christians' in the western world. We don't love like He did, and the signs and wonders that Jesus performed don't seem normal in the lives of 'Christians' today like scripture says it should (Matt 16:15-20) Many are concerned about the do's and don'ts of religion(Matt 23:25-28), but Christ was concerned about our inner-man, the issues of the heart. It wasn't about keeping a list of rules, but it was about loving God with all that is within a person, and then showing that love by how they interacted with society and the world around them.(Matt 22:36-40)
A verse I've been pondering recently is from Malachi 3:18
"Then you will return and see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him."
We ought to be noticeably different than the world, but not 'religious'. Mark 16:15-20 gives indications as to some things that ought to be different about us, what signs might signify that we truly are followers of Jesus Christ in action, not just in word.
"And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed."
So, I have to ask myself, does the world know that I am really a follower of Christ Jesus by the way I live my life? Do I have these signs and wonders following me? Am I known by my love, something different than the world offers? (see 1 John 4)
I want these things to be evident in my life, and I'm working on that manifestation.
If you are a follower of Jesus the Messiah/Yeshua, do you call yourself a Christian, or do you phrase it some other way? Do you have a succinct label you would apply to yourself concerning your faith?
Question for You: What words do you use to explain what 'religion' you are?