And it was in Antioch that the disciples were called “Christians.” Acts 11:26 (NRSV)
We live in a world of charming, fascinating, unusual, intriguing, and strange names. We each have a name, as do the communities where we live, the places where we go, and the information domains we create. There is something about a name. Every name creates a unique identity for a person, place or thing.
There are unique names in the Bible, too. Take prophet Hosea’s daughter Loruhumah and son Loammi. Other biblical names have special meaning. Barnabas means “son of encouragement.” Moses got his name because he was “drawn out of the waters” of the Nile River. Prophetess Anna’s name means “grace.” Bethel means “house of God.”
Names have always been important to God. Why else would God change “Sari” to “Sarah,” and “Abram” to “Abraham?” Jesus changed Simon’s name to “Peter, the rock.” Saul became Paul after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.
Luke says that students and followers of Jesus were first given the name of “Christian” at Antioch. Why? To distinguish them from others. What is in the name of “Christian?”
Relationship with God through the saving grace of Jesus Christ? Orienting one’s life around Jesus’ thoughts and ways of grace, hospitality, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, joy, and peace? Living a “turned-around, new life” life? Seeking to live into God’s dream? Loving others as you are loved by God and as much as you love yourself?
The name of Christian is weighty, more than an identification. It is a way of life and how we are known by God and by others. But, what does it mean for you to be called a Christian?
This is the question Lent invites us to ask ourselves and then decide how we will live up to the name “Christian.”