For series background info, see my previous post.
Our kickoff word is Christian.
Sooooo many people use this word, and yet in utter sincerity, I do not think it means what they think it means.
Nerd Alert – brief foray into etymology ahead!!
The word Christian actually comes from a Greek word which was coined not long after the death of the Christ, who was likely called Yeshua by His contemporaries and more commonly known today by the transliterated and (possibly Swiss-ified from the Geneva Bible translation) name, Jesus.
Long story short, His Greek title would have been (transliterated), Christos. Christianos was the Greek derivative used to refer collectively to those who followed His Way not long after His death. The English is easy to spot from there.
But what does the word mean? What, exactly, makes a person a Christian?
I’ve had a virtual conversation with an atheist who believes Adolf Hitler was a Christian. And from his perspective, it makes sense. After all, Hitler belonged to a nation which identified itself as a Christian nation, he mentioned Divine Providence (a way of referring to God) many times in his speeches, wrote about his concept of God and the Divine Image in his autobiography, and even proclaimed Jesus as Savior and Lord during a speech or two.
Surely that’s enough to make him a Christian, right?
After all, if yours truly, a mother of three, suddenly chooses to identify as a man, I can be a man – thus saith the progressive logic of the current century and thus the atheist’s puzzling little piece fits, though admittedly the picture is more a puzzle assembled than if it remained in scattered pieces.
The truth is, Hitler also used the term Christian while remaining ignorant of its actual meaning. Consider this quote straight from the pen of the mustachioed Austrian madman himself:
It would be better if they left this [missionary] work alone, and if, in its stead, they tried to teach people in Europe, kindly and seriously, that it is much more pleasing to God if a couple that is not of healthy stock were to show loving kindness to some poor orphan and become a father and mother to him, rather than give life to a sickly child that will be a cause of suffering and unhappiness to all.Adolf Hitler, from Mein Kampf
According to the deceased dictator’s philosophy, the God-honoring Christian thing to do is to sterilize the sick and infirm, allowing them to perhaps raise some healthy orphan rather than perpetuate their inferior genetic stock.
He goes on to sing the praises of eugenics. The gist of this section of merry old Adolf’s autobiography is that allowing unhealthy, crippled, mentally deficient, or “racially impure” (presumably by his standard) people to procreate is an act of immorality.
Logically consistent, but abhorrently far from what Jesus actually lived and died to accomplish. Hitler shaped his concept of God, Christianity, and morality around his lifestyle, ethnic makeup, and opinions rather than shaping his worldview around the actual Christ as presented in His Word.
Like so many of us still do today, deceiving ourselves that we have no kinship with a freak like Hitler. Too many of us fail to see the inherent dangers of redefining what it means to follow Christ.
So is a Christian merely a person who identifies himself with the Christ and calls Jesus his Savior and Lord?
Not according to the Christ Himself:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.Matthew 7:21
The Lord goes on to declare even some people who call Him Lord and do incredible feats – things I’ve certainly never accomplished – in His name will not enter. Jesus labels these Christ-proclaiming high-performers workers of lawlessness, not Christians.
So what is a Christian, if not a person who calls the Christ Lord?
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.John 14:23
There’s the start of the definition, though it’s necessary to know Jesus’s commands. Read Matthew 16:21-27, John 13, John 15 – heck, really you need to read the entire Book and study the types of Christ in the Old Covenant before moving on to study the actual Christ in the Gospels and letters making up the New Covenant.
To know what a Christian is, study the Christ. And remember that He tells us we can know them by their fruits.
A person is not a Christian just because they say they are, nor because they do a little Divine name-dropping or throw out a frequent, “Praise the Lord!”
Instead, observe their fruit. Do his actions bring acclaim to himself? Does her lifestyle honor herself?
Or do they imitate the life of Christ?
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.John 15:12-13