Why I Stopped Calling Myself a Christian

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A while back, I stopped calling myself a Christian. I don’t mean to insult anyone. It’s just that I didn’t like what the term “Christian” had become. To you that may seem strange but I’d like to explain.

I suppose there was a time when Christian meant something altogether different than it does today. Today, at least in American culture, a person can be a Christian without actually being like Jesus.

Christian can merely mean a person who aims to do good and be good. Or someone who goes to church. Or believes in God. Or someone who reads the Bible religiously. It doesn’t have to mean that Jesus is your life. I’ve met so many Christians who care nothing at all about Jesus and who don’t resemble Him one bit.

So, for the most part, I stopped referring to myself as a Christian. And I started calling myself a Jesus-follower.

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Following Jesus does not invoke a safe and comfortable existence for me. There are days when it is down-right difficult to run after Him. But, still, I follow Him because for one, Jesus is my life, and He is just the sort of person that I want to become.

What sort of person is that?

For one thing, Jesus is pure. As a woman who has seen and sometimes experienced the degradation that impure men and women can bring on those weaker than themselves, I admire this quality about Jesus a great deal. When Jesus walked the earth, He demonstrated that there was nothing evil or wrong or bad in Him. He treated women with the utmost respect and dignity. Jesus was the safest person for anyone to be around. He could be wholly trusted because all His thoughts and intentions were perfectly and utterly pure.

Also, Jesus was full of mercy. While others, puffed up by the pride of holding  religiously to rigid systems of dogma pointed the finger and condemned sinners, Jesus looked on the brokenness of humanity with compassion. He was more like a good Shepherd out rescuing lost sheep. He was a Medic who came to bind up the bruised up. The beaten down. The soul-sick.

Once when a crowd gathered to throw stones at a woman caught sleeping around, Jesus rescued her from a bloody death by rebuking her accusers,

“Whoever doesn’t have any sin at all…you can throw the first stone.” (John 8:7)

And of course, Jesus was outlandishly loving.

He was the Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. He was the Prince who left His throne, His Kingdom and all His glory and set out to rescue the one He loved. Jesus came to show the world what God was really like. And what kind of God is that? Perhaps Sally Lloyd—Jones said it best when she described the God who couldn’t stop loving His lost children:

You see, no matter what, in spite of everything, God would love His children–with a Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

I follow Jesus because I believe He was God’s Son and really did resurrect. Yes.

And I follow Jesus because I believe Him to be the Remedy for all human brokenness and sin. Yes.

But, I also follow Jesus because proximity to Christ is the means by which I can become the sort of person I most want to become.

Pure. Full of mercy. And outlandishly loving.

My favorite Jesus-following philosopher, Dallas Willard, once wrote,

 “Jesus does not call us to do what he did, but to be as he was, permeated with love. Then the doing of what he did and said becomes the natural expression of who we are in him.”

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If those who claim to be Christians are not actually becoming the sort of person that Jesus was and is, then most likely, they are not following Jesus. They may be following someone else, or something other than, but they are not following Him.

Christians ought to be the most like Jesus. And perhaps one day, the term Christian will be redeemed. Like, maybe Christians will be known for being the sort of people that Jesus would have them become. I have hope for this. It’s why Brent and I work in a ministry that encourages Christians to live in proximity to Jesus. To make Jesus their very life.

Until then, by God’s good grace, I’ll just keep following Him.

 

5 Comments

  1. by Lydia on September 2, 2014  2:47 pm Reply

    I promise you, I have this conversation with my friend & office mate almost every.single.day. She gets your updates via email and just said "you have to read Maggie's post right away". When I saw the subject I laughed out loud. not that it's funny. it's very serious, but yes. what you said. always, what you say. I love you, Jesus-follower.

  2. by Laurie on September 2, 2014  2:56 pm Reply

    Amen.....

  3. by Marina on September 6, 2014  12:16 pm Reply

    Dear Maggie,
    I totally agree to you. I do not like being named after the denomination of the parish I am a member of. But the term Christian is too sweeping to me. I think I might adapt the habit of calling myself a "Jesus-follower, trying to resemble Him more and more". God bless you!

  4. by Wendy Bender on September 14, 2014  9:51 pm Reply

    I could not agree with you more. I have loved the name "Christ Follower." I hunger... HUNGER for Jesus and need Him in my life every single day. I want to be known for my hunger to look more like God's precious Son more than I do for being known as a "Christian". Love your writing! Keep pressing on blogger friend!

  5. by Debbie on January 6, 2015  6:09 pm Reply

    I too like to call myself Christ-follower. Unfortunately saying you are a Christian has lost it's meaning and so many use the title but have no relationship with Him.

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