by Tricia Hitchcock
19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
Acts 11:19-26 (NIV)
I didn’t know how much the name “Christian” meant to me until recently. A friend said that she didn’t like the term Christian and preferred to be called a follower of Christ or a disciple or something else. Her issue is that there are so many Christians who do or say or believe things that she doesn’t and she feels like the world judges her by others’ actions. This conversation made me a little upset and made me go home and think hard about what was causing that reaction.
My first thought was that being called a “Christian” for the first time was something that the Scriptures marked. It HAS to have some significance. What I know of church history tells me that because the believers in Acts claimed Christ and claimed Him as the ONLY WAY to God, they were persecuted in the Roman world. In a poly-theistic society, the Early Church’s refusal to acknowledge any other than the One True God made them at odds with the culture.
I think that this is probably why the term “Christian” is important to me. I understand my friend’s point, I guess – just like any other “name” there are people who claim the title who don’t act appropriately. However, for me, it is the centrality of Christ that has made this name important. For most of my career, I have taught in public schools. Some of that time was in a place rather hostile to my faith. But even there, I found other Christians who became a support system for me. These people were from all different denominations and churches, but the one thing we ALL had in common was Christ. It was our identity as Christians that brought us together. He was all that mattered. He IS all that matters.