“Christian,” n. lit. “little Christ,” col. “!@#!”

Today Yancey reminded me why I left the church, and why I came back to Christ.  Legalism and ungrace all too common in the church are deadly.  Christ offers abundant, extravagant life.  Over the last 20 or so years that I’ve been a disciple of Christ, I have struggled to find some appellation besides “Christian” with which I could identify.  I’ve pretty much failed.  “Disciple of Christ,” “Follower of Jesus,” “Believer in Jesus” all describe who I am, but are too clunky to gain currency.  Nevertheless, “Christian” has become so synonymous with hatred, bigotry, and ungrace that I cringe inwardly every time I have to use it.  (Perhaps it is a bit like what Jesus might have felt being called “Pharisee” or “Good Teacher”?)

But what to do?  I cannot change the nomenclature, nor can I change the broad understanding of what “Christian’s” stand for.  I suppose all that I can do–and if I did it consistently it would probably be enough–is love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and love my neighbor as I love myself.  This is not said tongue in cheek, I am perfectly serious.  In these two commandments lay the answer to our collective failure as a church.  Yet there is no way for us to collectively obey these commands.  Each of us must determine to obey them individually with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Furthermore, we must each decide individually to give and receive grace and forgiveness.

I appreciate the point Yancey makes that grace is not passive.  “Passive grace” is not grace at all, it is condoning. To receive grace I have to repent.  To give grace, I have to receive it for I cannot give what I do not have.  To love God and to love my neighbor necessarily requires me to both give and receive grace.  If I can do that, perhaps people will no longer use “Christian” as the four-letter-word it was never meant to be.


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