“Christian”—Do you take this name for granted? Because it is a name that was given to you, rather than one you chose, perhaps you fail to appreciate the importance of that name. Have you become so accustomed to using it when referring to yourself or to the Church, that you have forgotten what it means?
The early followers of Jesus were not called Christians. For example, some were called those “who belong to the Way.” (Acts 9:2) Elsewhere, they are simply called “believers” (Acts 1:15) or “brothers.” (Acts 6:3; Acts 7:2) In Acts 11:26, St. Luke tells us, “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”
The name “Christian” was not a self-chosen name. In fact, it was unbelievers, namely the Greeks, who called the followers of Jesus, Christians. In only two other places does this term get used in the Bible. In Acts 26:28 St. Paul is on trial before King Agrippa. Paul is clearly confessing the truth of the Faith to the King. The King responds, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Here Agrippa is using the term Christian to simply mean, “One who follows Christ.”
In I Peter 4, the term is used differently. Here St. Peter writes, “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
As a Christian, you are a follower of Christ and You bear His name! Literally, you are “in Christ.” John 14 records part of Jesus’ final discourse with His disciples on the night in which He was betrayed. Here Jesus speaks very clearly to this understanding of being a Christian. Listen to these, the words of Jesus: “Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.”
As you read these words, the season of Lent is winding down, Holy Week will soon come, and then the glorious seven-week season of Easter. Regardless of the season and its mood—the penitence of Lent, the somber reflection of Holy Week, or the joy of Easter—you are a Christian! Jesus’ words, “you are in Me, and I am in you” are fulfilled in the working of the Holy Spirit whom He has poured out upon you in the gracious, life-giving water of Holy Baptism. As one who now lives, breathes, and has their being “in Christ,” you come to the table where He joins Himself to you in the eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood. You are a Christian.