Yes, I know they’re the same. To be a Christian is to follow Jesus. And I like the fact that “Follower of Christ” is more vivid and precise. It’s a great term. But I am not going to rush out and change my Twitter bio. “Christian” is good enough for me.
I understand why many do it. They want to say, “I don’t need chalky, legalistic Phariseeism. Just give me Jesus.” I have no problem with this.
But others do it for another reason: they want to distance themselves from Christians. I saw a Twitter update from popular pastor some months back. He was decrying the political actions of Christians he disagreed with. His embarrassment was obvious, and he used the incident to demonstrate why he no longer called himself a “Christian.”
Look, Christians of all stripes and affiliations have played the moron. Worse yet, some have been hateful and cruel. At such times, it is appropriate to say, “This is not me. This is not Christ.”
But is it right to then throw away the name based on distant association?
Ravi Zacharias said this: “To judge a worldview, philosophy or religion based on its abuse is flawed logic.” We know this is true. It is why our culture goes to battle against stereotypes of all kinds. We don’t judge the Muslim in the coffee shop for an act of terrorism abroad. We don’t pin the crimes of Mao Tse Tong on the college student who is enamored with atheism or Communism.
Neither do we demand that they change their names.
Do I think Christians are always right? Of course not..
Have Christians have done awful things in the past? Some have, yes.
Am I sometimes embarrassed by the statements and actions of men and women who call themselves Christians? Every time I flip past certain TV stations…
But despite the crusades, despite the fact that many self-proclaimed Christians were pro-slavery back in the day, and despite the fact that some have too much eyeliner and ridiculous big hair, I will continue to call myself a Christian.
If I stop, I distance myself further from the historical church. I say “you have all been wrong about everything.” I say “None of you got it, so I am starting over right now.” The church has grown and morphed and fought and split and worshipped and cherished. She has been ghastly wrong and gloriously right. She has given and earned black eyes, but she has also touched with healing hands.
Therefore, I will not throw the church under the bus. I will not weaken my link with St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, or the Apostle Paul in order to appease a cultural stereotype. I want to honor the memories of Wesley and Wilberforce, Lewis and Tolkien, of the saints thrown to lions, and of my own Grandfather, George Hague, who prayed with fire. I will even remember John Calvin.
Because all of our high-minded blog posts and reinventions would not exist without shoulders of saints on which to stand. We would not be tinkering with our own labels were it not for these men and women. These historical followers of Christ.