Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

What's in a name?


Some interpret Isaiah 62:2 as indicating that the name Christian would identify God’s new chosen people after Christ. This is very interesting given the fact that Jesus never used the designation once, and that this name appears only three times in all of the New Testament. If the name Christian was supposed to attach to something as vital as God’s seal of approval, one would think it would have a more prominent place in the Bible.

I frequently hear people who identify as Christians complain that their religious name or label is constantly vilified, even by those who preach tolerance of religious diversity. That is undoubtedly true and points out the conundrum faced by those who condemn judgment but then feel compelled to judge those who judge. It is impossible to denounce the act without seeming to participate in it. The situation is much like what Christians have often suggested- that they must hate the sin but love the sinner.

Perhaps the answer to this dilemma would be to simply note the consequences of beliefs, actions, and behaviors without succumbing to the tendency to revile those involved. It is admittedly a difficult, fine line to follow. It most certainly requires great restraint, emotional maturity, and patience, attributes extolled by Christ.

The real problem attached to the religious label of Christian is the implied opposite- non-Christian. When we believe that the former bestows God’s approval and blessing, then the latter by implication signifies unapproved and unblessed. Claiming the “Christian” identifier thus becomes an automatic putdown of those the claimants deny that name. There is no possible way that such a name application can be other than divisive and psychologically corrosive to both sides.

In the political arena we routinely witness candidates embrace the name Christian in an attempt to demonstrate their superiority over other candidates who do not claim the same name or who do not qualify for that name in the candidate’s personal view. When such candidates propose to represent and serve a religiously diverse constituency, such an open display of sectarianism is strange and frightening. What kind of support can I expect from a political leader who views me as morally corrupt and therefore inferior to his religious party?

There is a growing group of people who recognize that embracing Jesus is a gradual process and not an instantaneous salvation moment. These same people often consider the traditional name for aspiring Christ followers, namely Christian, to be a loaded term, one which has a very real negative implication for many. For that reason these people look for a really new name. That name should logically denote an evolutionary religious experience, focus on the revolutionary ethical standards of Jesus rather than adherence to church doctrines, and, lastly, avoid stigmatizing the rest of humanity. No easily stated name comes to mind, but developing follower of Jesus is my personal attempt to form my own new label.