Today, my mind has been focused on one area of thought. Am I Christian? Now, before you pass judgment on my state of mind, bear with me as I explain myself. Am I Christian? What does that mean? In today’s world it is easy to claim that one is Christian, since much of what is called Christianity looks very much like the world from which they claim to be “saved.” Is that all it takes to be Christian? What was it about the Antioch church that generated such disdain as to cause the “vulgar to call them Christian,” (Tacitus, Annals xv. 44). What was so different about them? Why were they set apart from the general population with the use of this moniker? What did a “follower of Christ” do that was so challenging?
In looking at Antioch, one finds some interesting facts that escape the casual reader. Let’s look at a few:
- Antioch was the 3rd largest city in the Roman Empire. Rome and Alexandria were first and second, respectively.
- It had one of the largest Jewish Diaspora populations at its time.
- Jews enjoyed Roman citizenship and freedom here. They were well respected and had attracted a large number of proselytes.
- It was likely the starting point for all three of Paul’s missionary journeys.
- Peter lived here at one time.
- It became not only the base of Gentile Christianity but also significant portion of Jewish Christianity.
Obviously, there was an appreciable amount of religious freedom as the Jews were free to openly practice Judaism. Why were the Christians so different? Could it be that the answer is verbalized in the accusation against Jason and the others in Acts 17: 6? “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.” Not only were they different, but rather than changing so that they could reach the world, the world changed so that they could reach the Christians! Do you turn your world upside down? Does the “average Joe” feel comfortable around you?
Before my appointment as a UPCI missionary to Finland, I worked at a large discount store chain. The rules regarding religious activity on the job were strict to ensure that no one would cause an offense to a fellow employee or customer. As I was in management, I was never allowed to share my faith with my subordinates because of concern over discrimination lawsuits. However, I found it interesting that although the subject matter or choice of words did not change when other managers approached certain workers, it always did when I appeared. If they were not quick enough, they often even offered an apology! I never treated them different because of their speech; however, my life always caused them to be uncomfortable.
Is your world uncomfortable when you are around? Do you cause them to modify their actions because of you? Or, are you simply “one of the guys”? This world has cheapened the title “Christian,” and it now takes little effort to fit in that category. When asked, “Are you a Christian?” I find myself answering, “I’m trying.” The puzzled look allows me to follow up with, “I have a lot of work to do before I become like Christ, but that is my goal.” It causes them to think. I want the world to want what I have, not think that they already have it! I want them to feel uncomfortable around me, but also be drawn to what is within me. I want to cause them to modify their behavior because of who I am, not expect me to modify mine because of who they are. I want to be Christian not as the world claims, but Christian as they know we should be! They are not fooled!
Gandhi once stated, “I studied Christianity and would have become Christian, but then I met one.”
Jesus, my prayer is that no one will ever look at me and see a distorted reflection of you. Make me like You! This world is depending upon us to show Jesus. Are you Christian?
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (KJV) “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
2 Corinthians 11:21-33 (NLT) “I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that! But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am. God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying. When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me. I had to be lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him.”