What is a Christian?
Discussion at the play-group moved onto the inevitable topic of religion. On this occasion the focus was Christenings. The general comment was that they were great family events, the chance to bring everyone together for the inevitable drinks and munchies. At this point, one of the ladies, a churchie, felt she needed to correct the group on a number of points. In her church, if you don't attend you can't have a Christening, but you can have a Naming Ceremony. She felt that it was rather questionable to offer a religious service to people who weren't Christians. From that moment the discussion started to heat up. In a rather charged atmosphere of offense, indignation and anger, the ladies attempted to tackle the question, What is a Christian?
I must admit that I now steer clear of the word Christian. It means too many things to too many people. Sometimes the word is used to describe a person who is Western in ethos. Eastern people will often describe Western nations as Christian, as opposed to say Muslim. They're speaking about national style rather than religion. Sometimes the word Christian is used to describe a good person. "She is a true Christian", meaning she exhibits Christ-like qualities, a loving, caring person. The problem with such a use is that the person may be a Hindu or a Jew and could be offended. The majority of people use the word Christian of a person who has a general affiliation with the Christian faith, but not necessarily a strong commitment to it. These nominal Christians are usually very open to the gospel and it is unhelpful when their allegiance to the Christian faith is questioned. Churchies often use the word to describe someone who goes to church, but of course, people go to church for a whole range of reasons.
What then, is a Christian? The word was originally used as a nickname for the followers of Christ. It was probably a touch offensive. So, the proper sense of the word describes someone who not only believes that there is a God, but who believes that Jesus is the way into the presence of God. A Christian is a person who believes that Jesus has risen from the dead, and because he lives they can live also, live eternally with God, and this all for the asking.
So, given the confusion, even offense, that results from using the word Christian, we are probably better off using another word when describing a disciple of Jesus. For myself, I use the word "believer", although even this word is problematic; in Australia, dedicated members of the Labor party are called "the true believers."