Luke tells us that the first time the early disciples were called Christians was in Antioch. This is significant because Antioch was the first place where Jews and Gentiles worshiped together, causing no little consternation for the church in Jerusalem and providing the catalyst for the Jerusalem conference. Put another way, the term Christian was used for the first time when the early disciples crossed a cultural boundary and widened the circle of belonging.
It strikes me that when we use the word Christian as an adjective, it’s almost for the opposite purpose. We use it to identify who we are in distinction from those around us. So, we have Christian bookstores or Christian schools or Christian news or music or Christian businesses. It’s a little like a rhetorical gated community. The rhetorical use of the word Christian as an adjective represents an attempt to maintain the privilege of a Christian culture. And I’m pretty sure that’s the opposite of what the word should mean. That’s what the principalities and powers do, protect privilege divide the world into affinity groups. No Kingdom of God there. I love Craig Van Gelder’s observation that somehow Christians in North America have figured out how to be of the world and not in the world.
So, here’s to trying to recover the Antiochan sense of the word, Christian.