Chris·tian /krisCHən/ – Noun: One who self-identifies as a follower of Jesus Christ, specifically, and sees Jesus as more than just one of many ascendant masters or prophets whose teachings are of general positive value. Rather than merely appreciating Jesus, a Christian works to “enter a narrow gate” by turning from old ways (Matt 7:13-14) in order to obey Jesus’ commands (John 14:23). Christians often speak of themselves as living in relationship with Christ, whom they trust as their redeemer: the Way & Truth & Life (John 14:6).
The term Christian can mean many things to many people. It can refer to institutions, and can mean a label applied to groups of people, often from the outside. See our WebDefs entry on Religion for some of the major Christian denominations. In this particular WebDef, we explore the term’s personal meaning: self-identifying Christians.
To a Christian, Jesus brings into a restorative, familial relationship with God, “Our Father” [see Lord’s Prayer]. Living in relationship with Jesus, a Christian finds “the way, the truth, and the life.” God’s unmerited loving-kindness and grace is received, and the call to follow through loving service is heeded. Beyond this, beliefs can vary as to the nature and person of Jesus (Christology), the meaning of atonement, and other points of faith. Beyond this, beliefs can vary in other ways, as well. They can also blossom over time, as a person grows spiritually.
Often, a person who self-identifies as Christian was born, raised, and baptized in the Christian faith. But not always. Many come into relationship with Jesus on their own, even against the wishes of friends and family. The first steps might have been curiosity, followed by intellectual assent and perhaps verbal confession, and a desire to know more and be more… to live life as a pilgrim and not a tourist. Others might not understand. As Jesus warned, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Matt 10:34-36)
For over two thousand years, followers have been at odds about what it means to be an authentic Christian. Evangelist Billy Graham counsels against infighting, writing that “Satan loves for Christians to criticize each other, because it blunts their witness and closes their ears to the Word of God.”1 While there are many thousands of Christian denominations, and if we become distracted by our differences then “the enemy, the accuser” wins a battle. When we unite ourselves under the healing power of God’s gracious love, we follow truly. Considering Jesus’ admonition to his disciples that “he that is not against us is for us,” and his great commandment to love one another, how can we not embrace, as Christian, anyone who is earnestly attempting to answer Jesus’ call to follow Him. Ray Bakke, mentor to our Center’s founder, often says “raise high the flag of Jesus, and just see who salutes,” essentially rephrasing this excellent bit of advice: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”2.
Select Key Bible Quotes on the Topic of Being a Christian
- Come, follow me. – Mark 1:17
- By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. – John 13:35
- Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great. And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us. – Luke 9:46-50 (see also Mark 9:33-37, Matthew 18:1-6)
- See also: John Chapter 15
What are WebDefs?
WebDefs – simple definitions of key terms relating to ministry and healing arts – are a regular feature of NHM Ministrants. Offered in conjunction with select key scriptural passages and analysis, WebDefs can be a useful starting place for exploring a topic of interest.
1 Online at http://billygraham.org/answer/pray-for-and-encourage-pastor-struggling-with-burn-out/ and accessed January 24, 2014.
2 Actual quote: “in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.” Rupertus Meldenius, from Paraenesis votiva per Pace Ecclesia ad Theologos Augustana Confessionis auctore Ruperto Meldenio Theologo (A Reminder for Peace at the Church of the Augsburg Confession of Theologians).