Acts 11:26 The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
This was a very significant development, particularly since this terminology has been used for almost 2000 years since then. Recently I’ve encountered a movement to get away from using the term, because it has been so diluted and shaded in various ways. At least one group wants to get back to using “disciples,” since that carries nuances that are sadly lacking in the average church member. That is true enough, but the Japanese rendering of this verse helps us understand more of what the original intent and meaning of “Christians” was, and should be today. The Japanese says, “Christ-persons.” The important thing is to think just what that meant. I’ve heard some English speakers try to render it as “little Christs,” but I don’t think that catches the idea very well. We aren’t little clones of Jesus as some people claim we are. We are indeed being “transformed into His likeness,” as Paul put it, (2 Corinthians 3:18) but that is a process that isn’t completed in this life. What we are, or at least should be, is people who are obsessed, consumed, with Jesus Christ. In northern Japan there is a grave said to be that of Jesus Christ, a person who came to Japan over 1000 years ago, married a Japanese woman, had children, and eventually died. I am personally convinced that he was a Nestorian missionary (you can Google it) who talked about Jesus so much that the locals associated him with the name. I would dare say he was a true Christian! That, I believe, was the origin of the term in Antioch as well.
I well remember that my most “painful” class in seminary was Church History, as we studied all of the things that have been done in Jesus’ name. He actually had nothing to do with a lot of it! That to me is the strongest reason for getting away from the term, Christian, but I think we rather need to reclaim the original meaning of the word. Many people around the world claim to be Christians, but they do so largely to be saying, “I’m not Buddhist or Muslim or Hindu.” It’s a social thing, far more than it is a statement of faith. Such people generally give Christians a bad name, because they carry the title without really seeking Christ at all. That is a genuine tragedy. Most of the attacks against “Christianity” aren’t really aimed at Biblical faith at all. Ministering in Japan as I do, titles are considered very important, and in the US, “identity politics” is rampant. I am not to accept titles just at face value, but rather seek to help believers in particular understand what those titles mean, or should mean. For example, a genuine “Christ-person” would never condone the Holocaust, but many Jews are convinced “The Christians did that to us.” That is tragic, and I’ve heard several stories from Messianic Jews about what the Lord took them through to overcome that. In my own ministry I need to raise up disciples for Jesus Christ, (Matthew 28:18-20) people who will live and die for Him, and not be deceived by any lie. To do that, I need to be sure I fit that category myself!
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for Your faithfulness to us, expressed in so many ways. Thank You for Your protection in jet-lagged driving, and for the people we’ve been able to see so far. We speak this morning at the church where I was pastor for two years before we went to Omura in 1981. I ask that we would be “Christ-persons” indeed, accurately representing You to them and rejoicing in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, to build up the Body of Christ and give You glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!