Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Enough evidence to prove you guilty?

I love the word 'disciple'. I know what it means. Christ constantly defined the way in which his disciples were to live their lives. We can build a definition for the word 'disciple'. But what about "Christian"? It's a word with a long history and one that is increasingly difficult to define. Some years ago I read an advert in a 'Christian' magazine that was requesting "Christian software for a Christian hairdresser'. The advert bemused me. What is a 'Christian' hairdresser? How would we recognise a 'Christian' haircut?

As a teenager I had a Saturday job delivering groceries to customers of a small greengrocers. At one house I would be met by a small terrier that would throw itself at the gate and bark aggressively. A lady's head appeared over the gate who informed me "You're all right. He won't bite, he's a real Christian". A "Christian" Jack Russell Terrier! Some hope! The word has become so overused as to be virtually useless.

Some say "the Bible says a real "Christian" is ..." But the Bible hardly every uses the word Christian and never defines the word. We meet the same struggle when we ask someone "are you a Christian?" Almost invariably we mean 'was there a day when you made some choices?' The problem is that this creates a sort of working definition of Christian that implies it is something 'I did' usually some years ago. "Christian" is part of my history.

The first time the Bible does use the word is helpful and it does give us a kind of working definition of the word.
And when he (Barnabas) had found him (Paul), he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Acts 11:26 NKJV.
So we do have a definition after all. A Christian is a disciple. It brings to mind the old question when being 'called a Christian' was becoming a criminal offence; "if you were arrested for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to prove you guilty?"

The words "Christian" and "disciple" provoke different questions. The first provokes the question; "what has happened to you in the past"". The second provokes the question; "to whom do you belong today?"

The religious leaders of the day had a penetrating conversation with a newly healed man;
He answered and said, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” Then they said to him again, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. John 9:25–28 NKJV.
They saw, with devastating clarity, that the two states were mutually exclusive. They still are.

To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to have chosen an extreme pattern of life. It is the choice that another will be my Teacher and that my life will be answerable to that Teacher alone.
Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? Acts 15:10 NKJV.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matt 11:29–30 NKJV.

The word 'learn' here has the same root as the word 'disciple'. I cannot be a disciple of Moses AND a disciple of Jesus Christ. I cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ AND be ruled by any other life mentor/coach. I cannot 'add' my relationship to him to any previous pattern of life.

And the challenge to us all is that we were not commissioned to 'go into all the world to make converts' but to bring men and women to the point of personal submission to Jesus Christ. If our converts were charged with the criminal offence of being a 'Christian' aka a 'disciple' would there be sufficient evidence to prove them guilty?

to be continued tomorrow...

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