Did you know that the word “Christian” wasn’t a label the disciples gave themselves? They were first given this name in Acts 11:26 in Antioch. It was a name outsiders gave to them to distinguish them from other Jews. Why? Because these men and women were different.
Christians were breaking down racial lines that divided the city of Antioch. Jews and Gentiles were welcomed into one faith. Inclusion and equality in Christ was prevalent. Sinners could sit with saints; in fact, sinners were saints through the redeeming work of Christ. Suddenly these imitators of Jesus were offering a faith available to all. There was no racial, economic, social or gender barriers. All were (and are) welcome. The Gospel brought unity and healing.
(Read more in “Where the ‘Christian’ Name Really Came From.”)
To be an imitator of Jesus, we must do the same as the early church. The name “Christian” was given to them by outsiders because the outside world saw something different in their faith. They saw a world changing, a world that offered hope, a world that scared those in power because it broke down the walls they had built for their own profit.
Right now in our culture, the Christian label is divisive, not unifying. Why? Why are we putting up walls that Jesus already tore down?
Have you seen Ben Wildflower’s artwork? It’s edgy, maybe offensive to the religious but healing to those who are ashamed of the connotations that come from identifying as a Christian. It calls us to care for the broken, to feed the hungry, to free the prisoners and to give sanctuary to the foreigner, all because we are imitators of Jesus. Topics our faith community may be uncomfortable getting our hands dirty with.
It is past time to reclaim the name Christian as one that imitates Jesus rather than one that builds walls and burns bridges. Where should you start? Try knocking on your literal neighbor’s door today and asking them how they are doing. Legitimately asking. Make some friends, not with an agenda, but to start loving others as Christ did. That’s how you imitate Jesus. You love the people in front of you exactly as they are.
If you are wondering what it means to authentically follow Jesus, join us on Unfiltered Radio as we investigate who He claimed to be and how He taught us to interact with one another.