Our Link Minister, Rev’d David Spence, sends the following Message for the month of March 2019 ….
Within our culture, we often give people names to describe who they are, where they come from, what they do, or something else about them. The name might refer to their country of origin, their chosen profession, or the position they hold in society. A person might be called an Australian, an Electrician, a Teacher, a Mayor or a Vicar. These are familiar names which we all understand, and they do enable us to know a little about the person in question. But there is one equally familiar name which is all too frequently misused and misunderstood. It is the name “Christian”.
The term “Christian” was used at one time to describe someone born in a certain part of the world, in contrast to someone being born a heathen. This is much less so nowadays, as the concept of a Christian country is a thing of the past.
The term is still widely used to refer to a person who is a regular churchgoer. But perhaps the most common usage today is to describe someone who is known to be a really kind and good living person. Yet to link the name “Christian” simply with churchgoing, or to equate the term with doing good is a mistake. It is a complete misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian.
It is easy to see how these ideas have come about. They arise out of a kind of false logic. Consider this statement: “A true Christian tries to be loving, helpful and kind. My next door neighbour is loving, helpful and kind. Therefore, my next door neighbour is a true Christian.” That might sound quite reasonable, but is it?
Here is a similar statement: “A dog is a furry animal with a tail and four legs. Next doors cat is furry and has a tail and four legs. Therefore, next door’s cat is a dog!”
Although the second is more obvious, both statements are examples of false logic. My good living neighbour might be a Jew, or a Muslim, or may even have no belief in God whatsoever. If that was the case, they might even feel offended at being referred to as a Christian.
The name “Christian” was first given to a certain group of people in Antioch. Not simply because of their good deeds or the fact that they gathered together for worship, but because they were disciples of Jesus Christ. This is the only legitimate use of the name Christian.
Those men and women had a living faith in the risen Jesus, and he was Lord of their lives. They had experienced for themselves his forgiving love, and the new life which comes through faith in him. They had committed themselves to following Jesus and walking in the Christian Way.
Their gathering each Sunday in worship did not make them Christians, but was a result of their deep faith. Their love for God was so strong that they wanted to worship him. Their love for their fellow Christians was so real that they wanted to support and encourage one another by coming together on a regular basis.
Their caring compassion and sacrificial love was also the natural outcome of a living faith in Jesus. The one they followed had taught them a new way of living; to love their neighbour, to care for the needy, to forgive one another It may seem as though I am making a big fuss about getting the name right, but it is rather important that we do. When the name “Christian” is misused and misunderstood in the ways I have described, then people may think they are already Christians and look no further.
They would then miss out on the new life that comes through knowing Jesus and putting their trust in him. They would miss out on the joy and peace and sense of purpose which comes in walking the Christian way.
Yours in Christian love,