“Christ-followers”: Rebranding for the wrong reasons.

by K.W. Leslie, 18 September
CHRIST-FOLLOWER 'kraɪst fɑ.loʊ.ər noun. Adherent or devotee of Christ Jesus.
2. One who believes themself a real devotee of Christ, as opposed to other Christians.

To be fair, a lot of Christians aren’t doing the title “Christian” any favors.

There are irreligious Christians, who figure all they need do is believe, and figure obedience is for suckers people who don’t believe. There are fruitless Christians, whose character is no different than pagans, but who point to their beliefs or works and think that should count for something. There are Christianists, who don’t know there’s any difference between their culture or their politics, and what Jesus teaches—but they clearly aren’t doing as Jesus teaches.

And there are Christians who aren’t as bad as all that. They’re working on it. Some harder than others. But let’s give ’em some grace, shall we?

But other Christians have decided there are so many substandard Christians, the title “Christian” has simply been ruined. Same as the titles “Evangelical,” or “Fundamentalist,” or “born again,” or “disciple,” “apostle,” “believer,” “Christ-bearer,” or what have you. The usual titles have been so befouled by posers, they’re gonna rebrand.

So they call themselves Christ-followers. As in,

SHE. “Are you Christian?”
HE. [correcting her] “A Christ-follower.”

Not in the sense that “Christian” and “Christ-follower” are synonyms. To these people they’re not synonyms: A “Christian” is someone who claims allegiance to Jesus but doesn’t really follow him. Doesn’t really take him seriously. Not like they do.

Yep, that’s the underlying message they’re trying to give everybody: They follow Jesus, and the rest of us [sneer] “Christians,” not so much. They… well, lemme have our Lord Jesus more accurately express the way they feel.

Luke 18.11-12 KWL
11 “Standing by himself, the [Christ-follower] prayed this: ‘God, thank you that I’m not like the other people!
Those greedy, unrighteous cheaters—or even like this taxman.
13 I fast twice a week. I tithe everything I get.’ ”

Yeah, this bit comes from Jesus’s Pharisee and Taxman Story. Lk 18.9-14 You may recall Jesus didn’t care for this particular prayer. It wasn’t that of a humble follower, but a pretentious ass. Those who exalt themselves, Jesus concluded, get humbled. Those who think they’re better than other people have another think coming.

Stay away from ranking other Christians.

The original word χριστιανός/hristianós is the diminutive of χριστός/hristós, “Christ.” It means “little Christ.” It’s like calling a Buddhist a “little Buddha”: It implies the Buddhist is gonna more or less (probably less) act like the Buddha. Exact same deal with us Christians: If we have the title, the expectation is we oughta act like Jesus.

The reason so many pagans think of all Christians as hypocrites is because they totally know this—and they can tell we aren’t making much of an effort, despite our title. We pretend we are, and we’re faking it.

Happens all the time, in every religion. But just because Christians suck at being little Christs, it doesn’t render the word invalid. It only means more of us need to live up to our title.

As for those who say, “I’m not a Christian but a Christ-follower,” how much are they really being a little Christ? ’Cause Jesus doesn’t claim or aspire to be a higher class of person. He’s not proud. He’s not a snob. In the gospels he’s regularly against such behavior. He ate with taxmen and whores, remember?

If it’s about assigning ourselves a higher rank, again it’s unchristian. God determines our rank in his kingdom, not us. And you see what regularly happens whenever humans assign rank (because it’s human nature, after all): One class of people lord it over “their inferiors,” demanding recognition, demanding worship, and not loving those beneath them. Same as Pharisees did to people they didn’t consider Pharisees in Jesus’s day. Same as rich Christians do with working-class or poor Christians today.

Matthew 23.5-12 KWL
5 “They do all their works in the sight of the people:
They widen their prayer straps and lengthen their prayer-fringes.
6 They love the first bench at dinner, the first chair in synagogue,
7 the greetings in the square, and to be called Master by the people.
8 Don’t you be called Master: Your teacher is one. All of you are sisters and brothers.
9 Don’t you call anyone on this earth your spiritual father: Your heavenly Father is one.
10 Nor call anyone your guru: Your guru is one—Messiah.
11 The greatest of you all will be your servant.
12 Whoever exalts themselves will be humbled; whoever humbles themselves will be exalted.”

Jesus followed this bit with some choice words for the “God-followers” of his day, and I find it’s likewise a very suitable description of today’s self-proclaimed “Christ-followers.” Not all of them start with such rotten attitudes, but it takes them little time to develop one. All they gotta do is spend a few months defending why they won’t call themselves “Christian” anymore… unlike the rabble. Watch ’em transform.

You see, once we set ourselves above fellow Christians, we no longer feel obligated to lift these fellow Christians up. We no longer identify with the masses who wanna know Jesus. Who struggle with sin. Who have the hardest time trusting God.

When God saw his people struggling, he put aside his glorified position and became human. He lived with us because he wanted to help us. Pp 2.5-8 Now, show me any self-proclaimed “Christ-followers” who actually try to lift up those “Christians” whom they sneer at. You won’t find any.

God’s in the redeeming business. If you think the label “Christian” has been too tarnished, don’t rebrand. Reclaim. Take it back. Do something fruitful with it. Encourage the Christians around you to do something fruitful with it.

And as you interact with Christians, you might discover there are far fewer of us tarnishing the brand than you thought. Most of the bad reputation comes from a noisy minority, not the bulk of Christians who really are Christ-followers. In other words, these “Christ-followers” don’t know Jesus’s church as well as they presume to.