Bob Tamasy: When Is A Name Not Necessarily A Name?

Thursday, November 11, 2021 - by Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy

Maybe you recall the phrase, “A rose is a rose is a rose.” It was originated by writer Gertrude Stein as part of her 1913 poem, “Sacred Emily.” Many understand the phrase to mean, “things are what they are.” Ms. Stein explained she basically meant that the simple use of a name already invokes the imagery and emotions associated with it.

 

I mention this because of how use of the term “Christian” has changed through the years. When I first came to an understanding of what it meant to truly commit your life to Christ, more than four decades ago, I was proud to tell others that I was a Christian.

In the years since then, however, I’d have to say this term has been hijacked, given a variety of different meanings – some of them used in negative, even derogatory ways.

 

So, depending on who’s speaking or writing, applying the “a rose is a rose is a rose” principle to the word “Christian” might not work very well.

 

Rather than delving into uses and misuses of Christian, I’d like to point to a shift I’ve observed among those who profess to trust Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Some would now describe themselves as “followers of Jesus Christ,” while others choose to define themselves as “disciples of Christ.” If someone were to ask me, “Are you a Christian?” I probably would respond, “Yes, I am.” But, depending on the person and circumstances, I might also ask what they mean by the term. Because their meaning might not align with what I mean in expressing it.

 

Somewhat surprisingly, the Scriptures use the term Christian only three times in the original Greek writings, although some Bible paraphrases have added it to other passages. In 1 Peter 4:16, the apostle wrote, “…if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” This is the one instance in the New Testament – again, in the original texts – of a believer using the term.

 

The other two instances the earliest manuscripts use the word actually apply to non-believing persons. Acts 11:26 says, “…The disciples were called Christians in Antioch.” In essence, outsiders were calling them “Christ ones” – people uniquely related to Jesus Christ.

 

Then in Acts 26:28, after the apostle Paul had explained to King Agrippa how his life had been transformed by Christ, the Roman official declared, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Again, the word is not used by a believer but rather, by a skeptic wanting to categorize what the apostle was proclaiming.

 

Bottom line, the Scriptures indicate that what matters most to the Lord is not which term we choose to use, but who we are – what is truly in our hearts? Paul summarized in Acts 17:28 what it means to be a genuine follower of Jesus: “For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” As the apostle stated it, it’s our radical identity, not just on special days or at certain hours, but every minute of every day.

 

Recently I was reminded of what’s often called “St. Patrick’s Lorica,” a prayer of protection in the Old Irish language. The namesake of the boisterous annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, in real life he was a devout British missionary and bishop in fifth-century Ireland. His lorica, which literally means “breastplate,” includes these words:


“Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.”

 

Kind of reminds me of the office worker who was asked the “Are you a Christian?” question. She responded, “I’d put it this way: I’m a follower of Jesus, cleverly disguised as an administrative assistant.” Would that be true for you? Whether you’re a business executive, elected official, homemaker and mother of three, plumber, professional athlete, retail manager, IT person, or student, could you earnestly say, “I’m a follower of Christ, cleverly disguised as…”?

 

If you can, then it doesn’t matter whether you call yourself a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, or an “ambassador for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). What matters is whether people can see “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).


* * *

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is btamasy@comcast.net.

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