The English language has some interesting ways of connecting words, ideas and thoughts together. The “-ian” attached to each of the words in the title is borrowed from the Latin iānus, which forms adjectives of belonging or origin from a noun. Electrician, musician and physician describe the role belonging to a person who might specialize in a particular area of expertise. Electricians work with all things electric, musicians’ study or play music and a physician as we know, is someone who is qualified to practice medicine. Knowing this, what comes to your mind when you think about the word Christian?
Acts chapter 11:26 is where we find the introduction of the expression “Christian” in relationship to those who follow Christ. “So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch”. Known between themselves as “brethren”, “the faithful”, “elect” or “believers” the title Christian was given to followers of Christ by the community of unbelievers among them.
Jesus, during his ministry among humanity called his followers disciples. The term disciple in the New Testament is used approximately 230 times and gives us a deeper understanding of what it means to be a follower of Christ. A disciple in this context is defined as a “leaner” or “pupil”. It was the task of the disciple to learn, study, and pass along the sayings and teachings of the master.
I am not sure about you, but I feel like we have seen the meaning of the title “Christian” change over time. Today many people call themselves “Christians” because they go to church and live a good moral and ethical life. While that is good, I think there is a much deeper connection to our faith in Christ when we identify ourselves with him as one of his disciples. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to worship him, serve him and be a witness to the transforming power of his mercy, grace and forgiveness in our lives.
First, our worship of Jesus is all about how we live our lives, Romans 12 says that we are to “offer up our lives as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God”. All that we do in life, yes all, should bring honor, glory and praise to God, that is how we worship him.
Second, we are called to serve him by serving others. The love that we show to one another through serving is one of the key elements that identifies us as true disciples to the world around us.
Third, as disciples we are called to be witnesses for him. Jesus, sent by his Father was on mission to reveal himself to us so that we might know him and save us from sin and death. This mission was accomplished through his life, death and resurrection. Since then, as his disciples we are called to carry on the mission by telling others about his love for them so that they too can become a part of his eternal family.
I am not proposing we discard the title “Christian”; I would suggest that we continue to work at learning to live out our faith as true disciples. Like the first disciples we should be set apart by our actions, our words, and our witness. Let’s pray together for a renewed commitment to the mission Jesus commanded us to carry forward; to worship him, love and serve others and be a witness to the world for his glory.