Christianity, what is in a name?

Christianity is under attack. Not the system of belief per se, at least not yet fully, because it is, which is what some of my other blogs are about. But the very title of our following. Christianity, Christians. Why?

Well culturally when people think about Christians some equate them with bigots, hateful, mean-spirited, hypocritical, political, un-loving, jerks. Yes, this is unfortunately true, people actually think this. I even had a professor in seminary who pondered if it would be more helpful to abandon the title of Christianity because of the bad wrap it has gotten. So some have adapted the response of desiring to come up with a different label for us. Now it may be true that some in the church are and perhaps even wear those things as a badge, but to abandon the title as Christians because of it is to lose so much more.

Recently another more prominent blogger wrote about possibly the need to abandon the term evangelical for the very same reasons. If evangelical is becoming a bad word among the world and so ingrained in the political realm perhaps we should distance ourselves from it as was done with the term fundamentalist. I don’t necessarily see a problem with this at first glance as it is simply a pronoun to Christianity but I do see a deeper issue.

As I have said before this is not a political blog but the real problem becomes evident when Donald Trump can stand up and claim to be a Christian and nobody really bats an eye. If this is the condition of Christianity then I have to say we as a people of God have really failed to communicate our message and demonstrate the man Jesus. Trump as a candidate is another issue completely, but honestly he seems to be exactly the kind of American that represents what we have become, but does he represent Christianity? He sure is trying to convince us. That is a better and more useful question. I think the kind of Christianity that Trump buys into, one that does not need to ask for forgiveness is horrifically telling.

As it is I am glad that some people have actually batted and eye at this and this is my attempt. The problem is that for the most part our culture hasn’t noticed much of an inconsistency in this. They probably think “Of course Trump is a Christian, those jerks!” If our message and world view is nothing more than a political side of the aisle that invokes that pius guy Jesus to appeal to a certain voting base then perhaps we should abandon the whole Christian project because it is not working.

So the term is loaded down with baggage at this point in history but is giving up really the answer? Pronouns aside to have gotten to this point historically Christianity must be suffering internally. How? Because the people filling the chairs do not even understand basic theology that demarcates the very thing that they say they are a part of. When a man on a national platform can invoke and identify with the name of Jesus while being completely devoid of the fruit of the spirit something is wrong.

Rightly seeing the increasing need to divorce ourselves from politics some have unfortunately adopted the posture of also wanting to not be at odds with the world. Therefore both inside and out people have latched onto to an idea. Love, and not judging. They think this is all Jesus was about. Jesus only cared about loving people and the way to do that is to not judge them. In fact these two verses, if they could even find where they come from, negate all the rest of the New Testament and most certainly the Old Testament. Oh dear…They have taken these two ideas and interpreted them to mean that there is no such thing as sound doctrine.

Why? Because as we have seen taking sides in the political realm angers people and has caused us to reexamine our own label. If standing on our perceived truth caused us to lose the government perhaps we should change some theology to be more liked in the church as well. This is how a people can say I am a Christian but do not need to ask for forgiveness. This is not a simple truth that Trump may or may not actually believe. This is representative of our nation that wants to redefine sin and how God feels about it. We do not want to ask for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness means admitting we are wrong and need help and that is not a popular thing to do, that is now not an American thing to do. We want America to be great again and meekness is weakness right?

But we do need help. I write this blog to stand up for Jesus and his actual words, his bride of followers called Christians, and to remind us that he had a robust message about the kingdom and living in that kingdom is what the New Testament is all about. Living in the kingdom means we have moved out of our old one, at the very least spiritually, we will move physically later when he returns. Until then we have his teachings (plural) of how to live in the waiting. How to live as followers of Christ. We have to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. We have to buffet our bodies to live in a hostile environment until that day. We even have to ask for forgiveness because we are at odds with God until we do.

Jesus asked this in Luke 18:8

I tell you the truth he will get justice and get it quickly, but when the Son of Man returns will he find faith on the earth?

Jesus asks this in the midst of reminding the people that when times get hard, yes, he will bring justice so the question is not when he comes will he do right, the question is when he comes will anyone welcome him?

It seems to me that we been more occupied with the first question? Have we been so concerned about attaining politically God’s justice, God’s country, that we have left his name behind? Have we been pushing for a “Christian republic” so hard that we have become more concerned with a certain vision of  an American way of life that we have left behind the true work of making disciples? Are we alienating people by our politics to the point that we are giving the gospel a bad name?

It seems like the people of America have said “We grew tired of Jesus and all his follower’s rules and how he was more interested in himself than our personal freedoms.”

This will always be the response to us building our own kingdom rather than Jesus’. Now granted this may their response to his kingdom as well but I think we have put our cart before Jesus’ horse. When Jesus comes what will he see that we have done with the talents he gave? Well we tried to build another theocracy through politics and when it got too hard we softened the gospel to reframe Jesus as all welcoming so that we his followers would be all welcomed back into America.

But in the process we lost both America and the very Gospel. But if this is not my home and that is not a true picture of God then what are we doing?

I do not want to, in shame,  distance myself Christianity while continuing to water it down needing to adopt new labels. Nor do I want a “Christian American” that in arrogance I wasted the talents that Jesus gave trying to defend her window dressings. I want to redeem who we are by being redeemed to him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. This may mean we are unpopular, but this should be because of our very connection to his name not because of the other things we made it about that offended people.

The gospel carries enough of it’s own offense aside from my own contribution.

We are told in the book of Acts chapter 11 that it was there when the followers of the Way of Christ were first called Christians. This is biblical people. This means to be one who follows Christ, so is the label really the problem or have we failed to represent followers of Christ? The fear of the label Christian is really about not having faith that God will protect his name among those other “bad” Christians.

So rather than ask should we take on a new label, we should be asking what are we doing that is giving us such bad press and do those things truly matter? What have we done that causes the world to so misunderstand us? If we are standing up for the gospel and suffering flak from that than our response, like the disciples, is to celebrate that we were counted worthy of suffering. But if we are suffering the fallout from us failing to be Christlike or simply pushing a personal political agenda then that is the not the movements fault but the misguided people.

Perhaps we need a heart change.

This is why we are told to speak the truth in love. If love is vacant from our voices than we are simply a clanging gong or a noisy cymbal as Paul teaches from 1 Corinthians 13. It is important to be a truth sayer, but if love is absent then we are actually undermining our message not helping it. We cannot claim persecution and suffering for the cross if love is not the purpose for opening our mouths. If we are not seasoning our words with salt, then we are simply making it more difficult for everybody else and causing them to despair at even our very titles. People are right there should be love but love as defined by the Bible. Love rejoices in the truth and does not run from it.

If Christianity is loosing face then ask yourself, am I not loving my fellow man? Start here.

So what is in the name Christian? Everything. If Jesus is alive then there will be a people that follow him. I absolutely want to be identified as a follower of him. It is my privilege and my honor to be associated with him. Jesus is life and life everlasting. I want that association above all else.

Christians should only be endorsing the name of Jesus Christ. Sins have been nailed to cross and his creation can live in that freedom if they would only come. That is what we should be campaigning for. The only trump that we should care about is the one that will resound when the Lord descends.

He is coming again, are his people ready? Are his people prepared? Are his people preparing others? He is preparing for us a place with him, if America is truly lost his people should still be a source of light to the world. We have a better savior than any candidate, there is no reason to lose our testimony over politics.

Christian means follower of Christ, not all the distracting and disheartening things we have made it.

Christians are the special people of God, the chosen race, the royal priesthood, the beloved children of God. Let us use the name of Christ followers to point people to their very maker. Their very King, their very savior, not us. We follow the master, he gets to direct, to teach, to model, to call to repentance, to save. We rest in his truth, his power, his wisdom, and build his kingdom. Let us not dishonor the king whether it be by our disobedience misunderstanding or even by our zeal.

I want a safe and moral society as much as the next person but the way there people is Jesus Christ first and foremost. Whose name should we really be concerned about making great again?

He must increase and we must decrease.

thanks

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