Maybe You Should Stop Calling Yourself a Christian, Christian


People love to advertise themselves as Christians; on Facebook posts and in t-shirts and through tattoos, in Presidential campaigns and after football games and on bumper stickers.

The Church regularly stands upon a soapbox to claim its collective Christianity, bloggers brandish the title as a calling card, and folks use it as a qualifier in social media conversations.

I think we’ve really botched this “Christian” thing up. I think we need to stop appointing ourselves worthy. I think we need to take off our labels.

The first century Christians didn’t give themselves that title. It came from people outside their community who saw lives that reflected Jesus and made note of it. They noticed how they treated one another and attended to the needs within their midst, how they responded to adversity and to attack, and they named them “Little Christs”. And it wasn’t a label that earned them cachet or privilege, but one that guaranteed conflict and turbulence.

And Christian wasn’t a brand either. There was no clandestine meeting where a grand marketing scheme was hatched to cash in on the name Jesus; to ride the coattails of his robe to international acclaim and worldwide influence. People saw Jesus in these early followers and often in a critical fashion, affixed the label to them as a way to call them out.

Maybe our problem in the Church is that we’re so quick and cavalier and presumptuous to place the name “Christian” upon ourselves, or to remove it from others. How dare we assume we’ve earned the title; that this is within our pay grade to determine?

Maybe we need to quietly and clearly live our lives of faith and let others tell us what they see, or to simply be content to let the evaluation of our hearts come from Jesus and rest in what he might find. Perhaps we should be less concerned about self-identifying and more about wordlessly incarnating Jesus in our flesh where our feet touch the ground or our where lives reach into cyberspace.

This may all sound like an exercise in semantics, but it’s really a matter of humility. There’s a profound arrogance that decides that our own lives perpetuate Christ sufficiently enough to wear his name; that simply because we say so, that we resemble Jesus.

Far too many Christians (especially those commandeering the microphones and megachurch pulpits and political platforms) are wearing Christ like an ill-fitting pair of pants that’s splitting at the seams and showing our nasty bits beneath. It’s making him look bad and revealing our hypocrisy in the process.

I think we rush to advertise our Christianity to the world because we’re terrified. I think we’re really afraid that if we didn’t tell people we were Christians, no one would see Jesus in us and we’d realize our chosen title is ceremonial at best.

I’d love to see every professed Christian simply shut up and live without any self-promotion, and see if God was at all glorified or if anyone actually sensed something beautifully strange in their midst and dared to ask what it was.

Honestly, I bet instead of people saying that when they look at us they see Little Christs, they would admit that they see little Christ.

Christian, you might stop saying that you’re a Christian and see if anyone sees Jesus in you. 

If they do, then you might begin to earn the title.

As for me, I just hope I resemble Jesus a little to those whose lives I rub up against, and that my presence brings more joy or peace or compassion than there was before.

I don’t need a title. 



78 thoughts on “Maybe You Should Stop Calling Yourself a Christian, Christian

  1. in your comment of today about little christs I most certainly agree with you. I believe that faith in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is a very personal one on one relationship. That all the symbols representing God are so unnecessary with exception for those who feel they need that extra recognition of their faith.
    In reality if your own belief and faith in our Heavenly Father is solid for you then you already know what his path for you will be, the love, compassion and the happiness we bring to him on our own without
    soliciting it in a public atmosphere, just as each one’s relationship is intimate we go along quietly
    following his way by loving our neighbors, showing compassion, empathy love wherever we see it is needed and God sees and knows all.

  2. Well said, my friend. I would add, though, that Jesus told us to go into all the world and teach and preach gospel. However, if we’re going to tell others about Jesus, we need to earn the right to tell them by living what we say we believe. They first have to see that we care. A preacher once said, “If they don’t see that you care, they won’t care what you say.”

  3. After my husband died in 2009, the hospice that had cared for him provided me with bereavement counseling – a young man, a MFT or MS, I believe (my husband had been a Psy.D.). This young man and I had many talks; he described himself as a Buddhist; I found him far more comforting and empathetic than the ‘Christian’ GriefShare held in my parish, a program that seemed very oriented into ‘praying away’ my grief ( and six years later, my grief is different, still present, and will always be with me – I miss my Montana Farmer Boy every single day) and getting me to don an Artficial Joy For Jesus – and I think that is the heart of the matter; people can see our constructed emotions and morality, coming from a desire to put on an appearance, and not from the heart – and that, very often (not always) is what they’re rejecting with respect to Christianity…..

  4. My name is Don, and that’s what I like to go by. Not “Christian Don”. I love this concept, and I think if we all stopped using that word as an adjective, we’d be better off. All titles like that do is lump everyone together in the same box. I guarantee that even though I do follow Christ as best I can, that my beliefs, doctrines and opinions are vastly different than others who claim the same. Talk is cheap, I agree 100%.

  5. I have to say when I met Love on the linoleum floor of a major big box store in a puddle of tears… It was Him and me. There was no proselytizing, evangelical, Fundie, or Heretical Christian within 10 feet of me. I had simply gotten to the end of myself and He knew it. I was finally ready to receive the love He’d so long chased me with. But it would have been nice for another human being to extend a hand and help me up off the floor. Whatever I choose to call myself these days… I’m obliged to love in the process. May I offer you a hand?

  6. Pingback: Maybe You Should Stop Calling Yourself a Christian, Christian | seekinghistruthblog

  7. Pingback: Maybe You Should Stop Calling Yourself a Christian, Christian | The Real Becky Miller

  8. Labels arouse and provoke preconceived ideas which can be erroneous and misleading. For example, take the labels, masculine and feminine; these labelled social constructs do not have the same understanding they did, say fifty years ago, and, in another fifty years will have morphed again. In addition, the terms may vary from one culture to another, from one social group to another and even from one age group to another. The potential for talking at cross purposes is very real.

    The issue with the label ‘Christian’ is that, in a sense, it too has become a social construct. Do you think the term would have carried the same meaning and understanding in say 200AD as it does today? Highly unlikely, I would imagine! Fast forward to present day – the term ‘Christian’ is becoming synonymous around the world (to its detriment I hasten to add!) with extreme right-wing politics. In the future the term may carry meaning more associated with a political ideology than with Christ’s teachings; this is already occurring. Examine other world religions and, no doubt, you will appreciate that the same process is in full swing.

    Hence, meaning and understanding embedded in social constructs evolve with time; their original meanings may become defunct or lost because the very nature of social constructs is that society constructs them almost subconsciously to serve a current purpose and not their original intended purpose. Enter Critical Thinking…this research paradigm, led primarily by the feminist movement and later together with the gay civil rights movement, aims to deconstruct social constructs and ask critical questions about meaning and understanding. Does this really mean what I think it means? How do I know this means what I think it means? Is meaning used to oppress and control people and therefore requires deconstructing and exposure in order to emancipate? etc etc.

    Now, it would be a practical impossibility to critically examine everyone’s understanding of the term ‘Christian’ every time you announced your faith, in order to ascertain whether you were on the same page. The reality is, however, that in the vast majority of cases you will not be on the same page and you will probably be talking at cross purposes, even without knowing. So, to conclude and, in short, in order not to labour the point any further (hopefully you’re still awake and haven’t lost the will to live), the use of the label ‘Christian’ is probably about as useful as a chocolate tea-pot.

  9. By definition, a Christian is one who agrees with the classical creeds. I don’t. I’m a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth. That’s enough for me. The dogma that came later mostly just doesn’t make sense and I can see little use for it.
    Thanks, John, for keeping these truths out in front and bringing hope to those of us who are using our heads in our spirituality.

  10. I’m an iconoclast. If you’re a religionist, and want to know, ask me why. If you do not ask me, I will not dump my views on you. Please be kind: don’t dump on me unless I ask.

  11. Wow, this was amazing to read, and very convicting. I try to portray this message throughout my action’s (like you’ve stated so perfectly), and I just get told to get off my high horse, that no one is perfect so I should stop trying to be.
    That isn’t my point, my point is not to be perfect, my point is to do what Christ has called me to do. Make disciples and follow Him, regardless of harsh words or abandonment. He told me to take up my cross, you know that heavy wooden one with splinters, yeah that one. He told me to take up my cross and follow Him.
    Thank you for sharing this post with all of us, I will be passing it on.

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