Thursday, October 28, 2010

Christian or Christ-follower? Is there a difference? Who cares?

Maybe you've noticed the trend to use different language to identify ones commitment to Jesus or Christian faith. Some people like the term Christian to identify with the established and historical group of people who used that term. I guess it technically means "little Christ." Some prefer Christ follower, I think to capture a more active, relational identification, and perhaps to distance oneself from the "baggage" of Christianity (either the history or the Ned Flanders stereotype). This Christian vs. Christ-follower (Mac vs. PC Parody) might shed some light on some people's perspective.

After some quick research I found that word is used three times in the New Testament. One relates to suffering as Christians and the other two relate to outsiders using the term. I've heard that the term was originally used as an insult, but that Christian adopted it (I love the nonreactive, creative approach to conflict here. Likewise, early Friends were called Quakers by outsiders and they eventually just adopted the term.*)

An earlier identification for Christians was "the Way, or "Followers of the Way." This terms seems kind of vague to me, Which way? Whose way? I wonder if the term was somewhat vague on purpose, as many Christians suffered persecution. I think Friends (Quakers) have one of the best denominational names. Jesus tells his disciples, "I no longer call you servants. I call you friends." I like "Christ-follower," but this terms has it's limits. Yes, we are to follow a dynamic, moving, leading Jesus who is active in this world. But the good news isn' that we are always ten steps behind Jesus "eating his dust" but that in Christ, God is with is. Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us. Jesus has united with humanity and we have solidarity with Jesus. We can be "in Christ" and Christ is "in us." God though Jesus is imminent, near, at hand, accessible, available, intimate, attached, bonded. That is the Good News! I think a part of our struggle with faith is that we have an attachment disorder with God and Jesus came to heal us of that. (I'll plan to Blog more about this.)

(If you have the time listen to the story about attachment disorder from NPR it has beautiful and huge implications to life with God and life in community)

*There is some debate as to why the term stuck. There is a reference in Fox's journal when he told one magistrate to tremble at the Word of the Lord. Also, in their meetings they would shake when overwhelmed by the Spirit. ).

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