Here is another in our series of guest bloggers who send stuff in to us. We always welcome your ideas or your own posts. Our first wave of submissions is now about complete, so we are hoping for another batch. This one, by Travis Mamone, asks a question that seems to come up all the time. What should we call ourselves? And, does it matter?
We’ve all seen the “Christian vs. Follower of Christ” ads on the
Internet, no doubt. If you haven’t, they are like the Mac vs. PC ads
where the PC is represented by an uptight dork with a suit and tie, and
the Mac is a laid-back hipster. In the “Christian vs. Follower of
Christ” clips, the Christian is the dork who only listens to Christian
music, covers his car with Christian bumper stickers, and makes sure
his suit is just right. The Follower of Christ, on the other hand, is
the hipster who finds inspiration in U2, is comfortable worshipping in
regular clothes, and feels like he doesn’t have to literally wear his
faith on his sleeve (or car).
While the ads do stereotype a bit, they are good depictions of how
today’s young believers differ from older generations. Many even refer
to themselves as “Followers of Christ” instead of “Christians.” But is
there really a difference between the two labels? Do you think what you
are called matters? What do you call yourself?
Since Jesus never referred to His ministry by a particular name, the early disciples called themselves either “followers of Christ” or “followers of the Way.” Later on they were called “Christians” as an insult, meaning “mini-Christs” or “Christ wannabes.” Ironically, what started as an insult became a perfect way to describe Jesus’ followers. We are called to be ambassadors of Christ on earth, to be a light in the darkness. We can’t turn water into wine (if so, we’d be drunk all the time!), but we can show the love of Jesus through our actions. We can give food to the hungry, comfort the lonely, and forgive those who have wronged us. And through our love, the Bible says the world will know that we follow Jesus.
Unfortunately, the word “Christian” has once again become an insult. Studies have shown that when people think of Christians, they think of people who are judgmental, hypocritical, and self-righteous. Today’s generation of believers grew up in the age of Religious Right, and how they’ve made a mockery of Christianity. Many young believers look towards the early Church to see how they did religion. And by doing so, many have adapted the moniker “Follower of Christ” to hopefully represent Christianity in its original and purest form.
Which brings me back to my original question: does it matter if we call ourselves Christians or Followers of Christ? In and of themselves, both labels accurate describe believers. We are both followers and representatives of Jesus here on earth.
What needs to change is not what we call ourselves, but how we live our lives. Are we showing God’s love to our neighbors? Do we cling to the eternal and not the temporary? Whatever cute little monikers we like to call ourselves–Christians, followers of Christ, Jesus freaks, etc.–it is how we live our lives that show we are God’s children.