“… and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’.” – Acts 11:26
Note that “Christian” is what early Christ followers were called by others. They did not choose this name for themselves. “Christian” simply means “little Christ” which is no small compliment or challenge. It’s a call to reflect the courageous compassion of Jesus for all humanity. That’s why he was called “Christ” too.
We might not feel worthy of the title “Christian” preferring instead to have the label conferred upon us by virtue of our actions, as in “They’ll know we are Christians by our Love” and all that. Just remember, unlike most professions, you can claim to be a Christian and still do it badly. That’s the point of Christianity. It’s not about what you do. It’s about what Jesus Christ has done for you and following suit.
And yet, just as writers are characterized by writing and golfers by golfing, Christians are characterized by being a “little Christ”… at least some of the time.
In the first century, being labeled a Christian was downright dangerous just as it is today for Christians in the Sudan or for Muslims in the United States. That’s why some UCC churches are making their solidarity with Muslims public. Since God became human to be in loving solidarity with us, it’s a very Christian thing to do.
Today, take the risk of letting someone know you are a Christian and back it up with some Christ-like love.
God of grace, from ancient Antioch to contemporary America, may Christians profess and practice the faith with boldness when boldness is required and humility when humility is needed.
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.