“…and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.” – Acts 11:26
Barnabas and Paul (né Saul) have gathered in Antioch for a revival. (Actually, since the church was just being born at that point, it couldn’t have been a REvival. A previval, maybe? Anyway.) The people have been filled with excitement, with the fervor of conversion, and growing in numbers by leaps and bounds.
And it’s in that place that our name is coined, where we’re first called Christians. Notice: it doesn’t say that’s where those first believers first call themselves Christians; it’s where others first call them that.
What would have led the neighbors to call them that? Not what made the neighbors notice them in the first place, like weird religious practices or whatever. I mean, why did the neighbors choose that particular name? It may seem obvious now: of course we’re called Christians; we follow Christ! But back then, there was a virtually unlimited number of things they could have called this new group. Why “Christians”?
Here’s what I think: they heard it from the believers. These new converts must have said the name “Jesus Christ” so often and with such passion that even non-believers knew it was important to them. They must have said it when they gathered, and they must have said it when they were apart. Like someone who’s just discovered Hamilton, they would NOT shut up about it.
Outside of church, how often do you say the name Jesus Christ? And no, you don’t get to count the expletives. How often do you say it, and with how much passion, as you move through the world? Is it often enough that someone who didn’t already know it might coin the term “Christian” to describe you?
Holy one, I’m afraid I don’t talk about you as much as I might. Let your name be ever on my lips, until even the neighbors start calling me by it. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is the Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Syracuse, New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.