Look at the end of verse 26. What does it say? It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. "Christian" is such a powerful term. It means follower of the Christ - Jesus the Messiah...Savior of the World. It means disciple of Christ - one who tries to emulate Jesus in everything he or she does. One of my favorite definitions of Christian is "little Christ." This term describes the Christian struggle for me...always trying to be like Jesus...always coming up short...but never giving up...each day is a gift through which we can take one step closer to being like Jesus.
Christian is not a name to be taken lightly. "Christian" is not a term to be thrown around to describe somebody who simply goes to church...somebody who simply believes in a higher power...somebody who was "born into faith"...somebody who prayed a prayer once. A Christian is someone who does everything they can to walk in the footsteps of Jesus...to live and love and interact with the world as he did. A Christian is someone who is covered in the "dust" of the Rabbi because they have followed so closely at the heels of Jesus. This "dust" is very visible...through service...unconditional love...incredible mercy...sacrificial leadership...uncommon love. When an actual Christian - a true follower of Christ - shows up, the world takes notice. They are often mocked, ignored, thought strange, despised and rejected, but that's what happens when you follow the Christ. Regardless of the reaction, people know there is something different...something strangely powerful about the quiet strength of a true Christian.
Think about the people from Acts chapter 11 who were named the first Christians. What was the name synonymous with 2000 years ago? Let's take a look...verses 19 and 20: Even though the community of believers was scattered by persecution, they remain unwavering in sharing the Good News about Jesus Christ. Nothing could keep them silent about the freedom that comes through the cross. Verse 21: The absolute commitment of the believers in spite of persecution shows the strength of their convictions and leads to many converts. Verse 22: When the leaders in Jerusalem hear about the converts they do not simply applaud and move on, they send mature disciples to mentor and train up new leaders. Verses 23 and 24: The people of Antioch see that Barnabas, the follower of Christ, is gracious, faithful and full of the Holy Spirit and even more people turn to Christ. Verses 24 and 25: Barnabas takes interest in a new convert who was once killed Christ followers (Saul), and mentors him for a year. Verse 26: Barnabas and Saul work together to make disciples in the church and to share the Gospel outside of the church, and their influence spreads exponentially. It was during this time that the followers of Jesus became known as Christians.
Committed. Gracious. Merciful. Driven. Loving. Unwavering. Fearless. Mentors. Disciples. Faithful. Spirit-filled. Evangelistic. Relational. Christ-like. These are the attributes that described a Christian in the 1st century. What does being a Christian look like in the 21st? How does the world describe us? Hypocritical? Judgmental? Cloistered? Fearful? Weak-minded? Uncaring? Not Christ-like? What needs to change? What do you need to do to become more like Christ and less like a mere church-goer?