One of the great misconceptions in the world today is the use of the term “Christian.” The “Christian” community, or “Christendom,” is a group title that applies to just about anyone who believes in Jesus, prays, or maybe attends worship sometimes. We see athletes, musicians, and other celebrities claim to be Christian with a cross around their neck, but their actions don’t back it up. We see false teachers leading millions astray under the name of Christian, and that’s a problem.
Having said all of that, I believe we do a really good job of recognizing those misuses of the term and pointing them out. Refer to a false teacher as a Christian and you’ll likely have someone remind you that they aren’t really a Christian. Why? Because the definition of Christian comes from where we get all of our beliefs – the Bible. The New Testament outlined the distinguishing marks of a Christian, and we don’t have the authority to change or bend it to man’s misunderstandings.
However, as always we must remember not to simply use the Bible to teach against something, but to use the same Scriptures to teach what we are for as well. Sure, the meaning of Christian that we take from the New Testament includes following the steps of salvation all the way into the waters of baptism and out into newness of life, and a true Christian worships God in Spirit and Truth just as the Word prescribes, but that can’t be where we stop. We can’t be satisfied with calling ourselves Christians because of two or three doctrines that separate us, or because we go to a church with the right name on the door, or because we pray sometimes, or because we read the Bible every now and then, or… you get the idea.

Instead of letting the world today define what a Christian is with a lowest common denominator type of definition, and instead of letting them lead us to define ourselves by what we’re against, let’s strive for the excellence of faith shown in the New Testament. A true Christian…

Is wholly committed to Christ. The call Jesus gives us is one to come and take up our crosses every single day (Luke 9:23). This isn’t a call to enjoy eternal insurance while we carry on with the same lives we lived before or would live if we weren’t Christians. This is a call to die to self, to be willing to put anything and everything behind the cause of Christ as Paul did in Philippians 3:8-10. Just as it is wrong to call someone Christian when they teach false doctrine, so it is wrong to call someone a Christian when they don’t submit to Christ. The true Christian must constantly examine him or herself to find weaknesses, areas where they need to grow, and strengths that they can use for the kingdom. The true Christian life has no room for complacency.

Is dedicated to sowing the seed. This is a tough one. It’s not easy to go out and evangelize, as it can be one of the most intimidating things we ever do. However, it’s clear that Jesus wants His disciples to spread His teachings everywhere they go (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Acts 1:8). If we really believe what He taught about hell and those who disbelieve, we’ll be all the more urgent to get out there and let people know what He has for them to hear. As with the parable of the sower, we can’t guarantee how people will react, but that’s not our job. We’re here to point people to Him and let them make the decision.

Is an example of Christ’s selfless love. Jesus Himself said that the distinguishing mark of His followers would be their love. We can never emulate His love perfectly, but He has set the standard for which we should strive. His love took Him out of heaven, down to earth, and onto the cross, all because we are sinners. He calls us not to simply love those who love us, but those who are our enemies as well. He set the example for us in this, as well. As He died for those who rebelled against Him, we learn that it’s our love for those we dislike, don’t understand, or don’t get along with that lets Him shine through us as a light to the world. Rather than looking at people as annoying, frustrating, or even as “too sinful” as the Pharisees did and as we can sometimes do with an increasingly-depraved world, it’s up to us to see them as He sees them – souls whom God loves and wants to see in heaven.

It’s time to take back the word Christian, and it’s time to show the world what we’re for rather than simply what we’re against. We’ll never establish the true definition of what a Christian should be if we’re always fighting and refuting the wrong definitions. Instead, let’s fight for ALL that a Christian is and be examples of it to the best of our ability, knowing His Spirit works in us and His grace is sufficient for our shortcomings.
By Jack Wilkie