What does it mean to call yourself a “Christian”?

This morning, I read we are called to be Christs in the world, not Christian. (Madeline L’Engle). Today Madeline’s words spoke to me like thunder and lightning in the darkness of the night. Too often, I hear about “Christians” speaking words of hate and taking actions that are violent, disrespectful, harmful, destructive of other human beings. Over my lifetime, I have learned to love, respect, accept and forgive others, regardless of faith, race, ethnicity, wealth or lack of it. For me, that is the calling of a Christian.

I hear “Christians” quote John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son that whosever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” and smugly say, “I’m in; you’re out.” I hear those same Christians quote John 14: 6, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” and say, “You don’t believe exactly as I do, therefore God doesn’t love you or care about you. You are a sinner.” From this self-righteous judgment, it is a very short step to fearing those sinners, condemning those sinners and trying to eradicate those sinners from God’s world.

If that is how “Christianity” works, count me out. My faith and those scripture passages have taught me some very important lessons:

  1. God loves God’s world, the whole world, not just the people that I judge worthy.
  1. God loved every person God created so much that God came in Jesus and endured the hatred, the violence that we seem to love so much, and laid down his human life in love, to teach us what love is. God did this, not because I’ve said some special words, or experienced God’s Spirit in one particular way. God did this because I am God’s child and always will be.
  1. I am humbled to think that Jesus loved me enough to come to this world to teach me how to be his “hands, and feet and heart,” and love the world as he did.
  1. When I hear Jesus words, “I am the Way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I hear Jesus’ call to love, value, respect all of God’s children. I hear Jesus’ call to love God and love others as he has loved me.
  1. Neither of these scripture passages call me to hatred, fear, violence. Jesus’ Way, Truth, Life was to heal, love, forgive not to destroy.
  1. As a follower of Jesus, I am called to be the hands, feet and heart of Christ.

I feel as if the word “Christian” has been desecrated. I need a new name, a new identity. Let’s find a new word, a new way to identify ourselves as followers of Jesus.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  (John 13:34 NIV)

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