The Republican front-runner Donald Trump recently said in a stump speech in Des Moines, Iowa, “I am an evangelical. I am a Christian. I am a Presbyterian.” I do not mean to single out Trump here. It could have been anyone most anywhere. His statement just happens to be the most recent from someone in the news.
What do those words mean, “I am a Christian.” It seems that being or claiming to be a Christian means something different to whoever is using the title. So what does it mean to be a Christian?
The most obvious answer is a Christian is a person who has decided to follow Christ, to be like Him. Followers of Christ are often called disciples. The word disciple comes from the same root meaning as the word discipline. It follows, a disciple is one who disciplines oneself after the teachings of his master.
Jesus came saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the Gospel,” Mark 1:15. By believing the Gospel we enter into a relationship with Father God in His kingdom. A kingdom is not a democracy. In the kingdom of God we do not get to vote on what it means to be a Christian. We are to follow Christ’s example “who is the image of God,” 2 Corinthians 4:4. Being a Christian is a superlative that needs no qualification.
In the book of Acts, the historical account of the early church, we read, “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch,” Acts 11:26. Scholars tells us this was probably a term of derision, the local towns people were mocking the disciples. That may be true, but the fact remains the local towns people knew who Christ was and recognized those who followed Him.
For this reason I believe the title Christian is not something I have a right to claim. It is a title another confers on someone recognizing the way he lives his life. If I have to tell someone I am a Christian there must be something wrong in my testimony.
But let me be clear. If someone asks me if I am a Christian and it is clearly a question of my allegiance, I would readily avow I am a Christian. But if the question is about my lifestyle, I have no right to claim something I am not living, and if I am living my faith the question is unnecessary.
During this time of year it is common for people to question what is the true meaning of Christmas. And pastors and churches will be sharing that message in the pulpit and in our community in different ways. But I think it is an appropriate time to consider what it truly means to be a Christian, because Christmas should not be celebrated during this season alone. It should be celebrated every day of the year in the way we live our lives.
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