In Acts 11:26, the Bible says the disciples or the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” at Antioch. Historical evidence suggest that it was a derogatory term given by unbelievers. Today the term is used to describe anyone who has even a loose association with the teachings and character of Jesus or to describe one who has made an authentic profession of faith. For some, the term “Christian” is merely a political label, used to distinguish those who advocate a certain political agenda. For others, the term is used as a synonym for church membership. For years, I thought all church members were Christians! It wasn’t until I became a church leader that I discovered that was not the case! But, even though all church members are not Christians, all Christians should be church members!
So, the problem today is an age-old one. Many who claim the name “Christian” have caused the name to be dishonored and cursed. There are just so many un-Christ-like Christians! It is because of these un-Christ-like Christians, the name of God, is as the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 2:24, blasphemed, or spoken evil of, among unbelievers. I think the real problem many unbelievers have with Christianity is not so much with Christ, as with those who profess to be followers of Christ! By and large, those of us who claim to follow Christ have not been very good representatives of him.
For many people, Christians are considered to be narrow-minded, bigoted, judgmental, and hateful. To those people, I would say: “Please don’t judge the Father by the short-comings of his children!” Real Christians are by no means perfect people, they are just people who have been perfectly forgiven! And often, they forget that just as they have been forgiven, they have been commanded to forgive others. A real Christian is a works in progress; unfinished, still in the growing process.
But what is the difference between a real Christian who is a work in progress and a person who is not a Christian at all, but just is merely claiming the title? Well, for the real Christian, there was a definite point in time when their lives were transformed by the power of God. At some point in time, God transformed their lives and His Spirit took residence in their hearts. At that point they were “born again” and the growth to spiritual maturity began. The person who is merely trying to act like a Christian has not had this experience.
But my purpose is not to discuss the differences between those who are Christians and those who are not. What I want to point out is some of the un-Christ-like attitudes and actions that even genuine Christians might from time to time perform. For instance, there has been so much talk since the death of Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Baptist Church in Lithonia, GA. Many so-called Christians have used the occasion of his death to demonize him and his legacy. Truth is; Eddie Long was not a perfect man! (But neither are any of us perfect people!) He made his share of mistakes, but he also did a lot of good things. While I did not personally agree with his theology and many of the things he did, I dare not defame him or his memory. The Apostle Paul asked in Romans 14:4 “Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant? Before his own master, he stands or falls.” (Rom. 14:4 NET) No matter what any of us think of Bishop Eddie Long or anyone else, in the final analysis, it really doesn’t matter! We don’t have a heaven or a hell to send anyone to! And besides that, we should also remember; the same rule we use to measure or judge others, we will be measured and judged by!
Even in the matter of obvious sins, we should be careful that we don’t attempt to usurp the authority of God in judging people. We often quote John 3:16, but very few people remember John 3:17 which says: “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. (Jn. 3:17 NLT) If we call ourselves Christians, that means we are Christ-like or like Christ. Well, if Jesus wasn’t in the business of judging people and we’re supposed to be like him, then why are we so quick to be judge, jury and executioner? Now, I hear somebody saying: “Preacher, I’m not judging, I’m just telling the truth!” That might very well be, but the Bible teaches that we are not to use the truth as a weapon to harm others! Ephesians 4:15 teaches us to speak the truth in love. In other words, our motivation for speaking the truth shouldn’t be to tear others down or to belittle them, but rather to lift and build them up! Now, this doesn’t mean that we are not to condemn sin. No, we are to love the sinner and hate the sin! Just because you may point out someone’s sin, that doesn’t mean you’re being judgmental or hateful. In fact, if it is done correctly with the right motivation; it is an act of love! It is a mean and hateful person who sees me headed for destruction and does not say anything to warn me! It’s a poor parent that doesn’t say anything to a toddler who is about to tip boiling hot water on its head because the parent doesn’t want to hurt the child’s feelings!
I didn’t mean to go off on a rant, but I felt compelled to write this in view of all the hateful, mean-spirited, words that are being spoken and written by those in and out of the church today! The bottom line is this: If we claim the name “Christian,” the least we can do is act Christ-like! Do we honestly think Jesus would say some of the things we say and act the way we act? The Bibles says, the same mind that was in Christ Jesus should be in us. Let us pray that as we live our lives, we will be shaped into the image of Christ and be strong enough to resist the temptation to try to shape Christ into our image. Let us pray that we will truly be “Christ-like Christians.”