“I think I don’t want to be a ‘Christian’ anymore. Because in the middle of trying to think, talk, and act like a Christian it’s easy to forget to love God and be loved by Him.” – from my journal (2008)

Christian. It’s just a word, and words only have meaning because we agree that they do. But this one has more meaning than most. It’s a religion and a relationship, a philosophy and a subculture. It’s history and hope and death and life all rolled together and tied up into two syllables. It defines us.

And yet, we hold it at arm’s length. Because a word that was first infused with reckless love is now sullied with terrible politics and poorly-written films and bad tipping at restaurants. Because a word that first united a brave family of Jesus-followers has been slapped on everything from bumper stickers to church buildings to Presidents. Because a word that first described a profound relationship with the God-man has become a genre descriptor for terrible art and imitation music and Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Words only have meaning because we agree that they do, but this word means something to all of us.It stirs painful memories of rules and oppression and half-truths. It’s the beautiful religion that whispered hope when there was nothing but darkness. For most of us, it’s an impossible mixture of both – life and death, truth and lies all swirled together. We look in the mirror at this label stamped into our own foreheads and we try to rub its stain from our skin, but still it remains.

Christian.

 

It’s just a word but when spoken without love it’s empty, dead and profane.

Frustrated, we look in the mirror and try again to rub away that label stamped in our foreheads. Like I did in my journal five years ago. Like my fellow blogger last week in the comments:

“This, this right here… This attitude… This frame of mind… this is why I left the church. I no longer claim to be a Christian, because people like you do, and I do not want other people to think of me like I think of you…. This is not love. And what little I have left in me that might possibly believe in a God… This is not what he is.”

Christian. It’s just a word, but it breaks my heart to see it twisted and broken by those who have no idea. Not because I care at all about those syllables but because of all they meant when they were first spoken. Because of a God who loved His creation so much that He became a man so He could save us. Because of the brave few who first believed and followed the God-man. Because when we look in the mirror we don’t see Him anymore, we see only the label on our foreheads.

But I can’t erase it, and I don’t think I’ll try anymore. For all it first meant. For all those who have worn it before me and all those who wear it beside me today. A family of hopeful children – sometimes proud, sometimes humbled, often on the verge of giving up. Trying every day to to shed the baggage and walk in freedom.

It’s just a word, and I don’t care if you ever embrace it. I do hope you keep walking toward the God-man who is running toward you. I hope that my blogger friend will cling to her fragile faith in God despite the hateful words of those who claim to follow Him. Words only have meaning because we agree that they do, and if you never embrace the word “Christian” I pray you never let go of the beautiful hope and all that it could mean for you.

I am a Christian. It’s just a word, but it’s ours. It’s mine. It’s stamped into my skin and into my heart and I’ll let it stay because of all that it meant when it was first spoken.

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