In the 1950’s, the term Christian was viewed in a positive way. Today, people’s thoughts on Christianity vary more widely between positive to very negative. Some just say they’re “neutral.” Rewind the clock a couple of thousand years, and you are going to find that the very first time the phrase Christian was used, it was used in a negative sense.
The term Christian was used initially during the First Century in Antioch by pagans, who were making fun of those who were Christ followers. They coined the term Christianos, which means Christ ones, little Christs, or mini-me.
It is easy for the world to view today’s Christians as that group of folks who seem to be against everything. If I were asked, “What are Christians most against?” I would probably answer, “Other Christians.”
What group fights more among themselves than those who are Christians? Jesus never invited anybody to be a “Christian” -I believe- because of what the term has come to mean today. This is why some days I find it difficult to call myself a Christian.
Luke 14:25: Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Jesus continues in verses 28-34 by saying “Don’t begin until you count the cost.”
He’s not talking about being the watered-down, American version of a Christian: a kind of cultural Christianity. Actually, 85% of Americans, some 247 million people, call themselves Christians. However, that same 85% are just as likely to get divorced as non-Christians, to abort their babies as non-Christians, and even less likely to help the poor than non-Christians. How are those 85% really furthering the cause of Christ? Christianity has become more of a cultural nice guy system, a club.
What does a disciple of Jesus do? A disciple of Jesus touches lepers. In our culture today, we don’t like to touch or be around the unlovely, and lepers are about as unlovely as they get. In Mark 1:40, the Bible says, “A man with leprosy came to Jesus and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, please, you can make me clean.’”
A disciple touches those who others won’t touch; and that’s exactly what Jesus did. Jesus, filled with compassion, “reached out his hand and He touched the man. Immediately, the leprosy left him, and he was cured.”
A disciple also befriends prostitutes, the sinners, the really bad people. Matthew 9:10 says, while Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors, and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. Jesus wasn’t hanging out with the religious. He was spending time with the sinners.
Whether it was the woman caught in adultery that Pharisees wanted to stone and kill that Jesus stood up for. Whether it was the tax collectors like Zaccheus that everyone else hated, or the prostitute who threw herself at the feet of Jesus in worship, all through scripture, you find Jesus befriending the sinners.
But, for so-called Christians, the more we listen to our own exclusive music and learn our own buzz word language, we often lose touch with that kind of person. You know the ones I’m referring to: the kind that smokes, drinks alcohol, watches rated-R movies, has tattoos all over, piercings in weird places … the ones you can’t hang out with or let your kids hang out with.
A disciple also offends Pharisees—you know the legalistic overly religious church-y type that forgot the main message of why Jesus came. Luke 13:10 says, On a Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. Then Jesus put His hands on her, and immediately, she straightened up and praised God.
A synagogue Pharisee was indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, and in verse 14 said, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
In Matthew 12, Jesus healed a man’s hand that was withered, and He did this on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were so upset they went outside and plotted about how they could kill Jesus.
To engage a society today who is ambivalent, not paying attention to Jesus at all, we must go where they are, speak their language, take Jesus into this world aggressively, without hesitation, without reservation, without watering it down one bit. We must confront the hard issues head on, and when the controversy comes, so be it. It is one of our greatest honors to hurt for the cause of Christ, and honestly, our hurt is so small compared to what is out there (or what Christ suffered for us).
Are you ready to be a disciple? Consider the cost, because it will cost you something.