A few years ago a brother in the faith preached that we should not call ourselves Christian. He insisted that it is wrong, and nobody should refer to himself as a Christian. Since then, I have come across many believers who reject the Christian name or title. They say they are spiritual, and not Christian or religious. In fact, Christians have a bad reputation in social media.
This is not a new development. The Christian name has always been deemed derogatory from its origins in the first century. However, instead of rejecting the name Christian, the Apostle Peter encouraged Christians to accept the name as a badge of honour.
Peter wrote, “If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!” (1 Peter 4:14-16 NLT).
Unlike my brother who rejected the Christian name, I embrace it. As Peter puts it, for me it is a privilege to be “called by his name” (v16). I am proudly Christian. It identifies me as one who belongs to Christ. I am aware that there are many who deceive, rob, murder, steal, lie, and even commit sexual immorality in the name of Christ. They have made society see Christians in a negative light.
However, I cannot in my right mind allow such people to degrade the name of my Lord and be the last word about it. As true believers, we can reclaim the name Christian to mean exactly what it is supposed to mean – followers of Christ. We bear his name. What an honour!
The cross was the same in the first century. Cursed was anyone who hanged on a cross. (Galatians 3:13). The cross was for criminals. It was shameful to be associated with anybody who was crucified on a cross. Yet, Jesus was unfairly counted amongst criminals. Knowing the shame of the cross, Paul embraced that shame together with Christ.
Paul wrote, “So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24 NLT). To assert their identity with the crucified Christ, some Christians started wearing the cross around their necks. They embraced the shame of the cross in order to be identified with their Lord who died on the cross.
Personally, I don’t like necklaces, but every time I see a believer wearing a cross around their neck, I smile inside. This does not mean there are not many criminals who wear the cross and bring shame and a stereotype to it. But, it is the true believers that can bear true testimony to the power of the cross, and power of the Christian name.
I am proudly Christian! You may call me Christian. It is a privilege to bear Christ’ name. Amen!