Followers of Christ got their first label in the town of Antioch. The people there called them “Christians.” Since that time, many have taken to calling themselves “Christians.”
It might surprise people, as it did me, to learn that the word “Christian” is used only three times in the Bible, and in each case it is a label of contempt, or reproach. There was no great love from outsiders for this unruly group who lived in a counter culture within the walls of Antioch. When Agrippa says to Paul, “Do you think you could persuade me to be a Christian?”, he most likely spat at the term. And as Peter spoke to his readers about suffering as a Christian, they understood the point he was making.
Thanks to decades of atrocities, large and small, in the name of religion, and many years of scandal in the “christian church”, this label is again one of reproach. Maybe that’s not so bad. It does leave us, however, with the dilemma of what to call ourselves. I’ve heard all the alternatives, as I’m sure you have… saints, born-agains, believers, Christ-followers, etc. I once got so frustrated when speaking to someone that I told her “I’m a creature from another planet… I don’t belong here.”
I usually conclude that it’s best not to apply any label to myself, or to those whose journey I share. If others, like the people in Antioch, want to call me something – whether it be a term of endearment, respect, or contempt – let them have at it. There are times when I deserve and don’t deserve them all. Meanwhile, I’ll just do my best to stay on the path.