‘Christian’ is a noun — only


The word “Christian” makes a very bad adjective. In fact, there should be an automatic red flag that pops up in your mind every time you see or hear it, or especially when you try to use it as such. When you’re about to write or say “Christian something-or-other,” there needs to be a pause in order to make sure that is what you truly want to portray.

A Christian is a person, almost never a classification. “Christian” as a classification poses numerous problems and artificial delineations. It gives the impression that the Christian thing is more sacred than that which is not, and this is not necessarily true. It gives the assumption that that which is not Christian is suspect, and that, too, is not necessarily true. The label has given rise to an artificial market full of products and services created by Christians (and in some cases non-Christians) for Christians.

The minute you start to classify in society what is Christian, that means someone or something other than Jesus Christ chooses what the agenda is going to be, and in many ways that has already been decided by society itself. Jesus wants to be represented in the world in and through us, His people. He said that the world would know we are His disciples primarily by our love. And who has chosen love to be the identifying mark for Christians in culture? Unfortunately it’s come out to be something a lot closer to hate that has identified us in the world.

However, the most unfortunate result of the false identification of Christians is to remove the influence of Christians from the wider culture and confine it to a small segment of society that already believes. For instance, we now have “faith-based” movies that are made largely by non-Christians and marketed to Christians. And this exists for one reason, to make money off a lucrative segment of movie-goers uncovered by the huge success of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.

The easiest way to sort this out and get the influence of believers back on track in the world is to only recognize “Christian” as a noun — a person. The minute it becomes anything else, something is lost. The message gets truncated. The power of Christ in a person’s life gets reduced to issues — something someone other than Christ decides is “Christian.”

We are here to bring salt and light into all segments of society and to allow the many subtle and not-so-subtle aspects of the presence of Christ in our lives to permeate all that we say and do in the world. And that’s because we are Christians (noun), not because we are representing a Christian (adj.) idea, or a Christian agenda. It’s the real multi-faceted presence of Christ in us wherever we go, whatever we do.

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9 Responses to ‘Christian’ is a noun — only

  1. drewdsnider says:

    Excellent point. I’d suggest one instance where it’s proper to use “Christian” as an adjective: in a sentence like, “Is that a Christian response?”

    • jwfisch says:

      Yes, but I think there is a better word for “Christian” there, like “kind” or “civil,” because we have no idea what people are thinking when we say “Christian” in that instance.

  2. Sandie says:

    We ran into this ad-nauseum when we had our band. Christian vs. Non-Christian. Secular vs. holy or sacred. It ALL originated with God – He never drew those lines. We covered believing artists (I almost said Christian!) as well as our original songs. We also covered (gasp) secular songs; especially those that spoke of a seeking heart that did eventually find Jesus. Got a lot of flack for that. Then we had the ‘drum’ and ‘beat’ issue; God forbid a believer had rhythm or knew where the backbeat was. (Our drummer used to yell at us, “Where’s the one?!) Once we were hired by a church for a teen outreach weekend, aimed at the whole community, not just church youth. Not until we were setting up were we informed by the elders that we couldn’t use our drum machine; we didn’t even have a ‘live’ drummer yet! This was as kids wearing Metallica t-shirts were starting to be seated…We also got knocked for lack of theology after an acoustic Petra song, but that’s another story. By the end of the weekend we began to lose our identity as believers. I don’t think we ministered musically at all; it was ice-skating, bowling and just goofing with the kids that did. Needless to say, we never let that kind of thing happen again – but how sad – for everyone – that it happened in the first place. PS. The following week the youth director that hired us got fired. Plus we acquired a Word of Life – trained soundman. God does work in mysterious ways!

  3. David Reis says:

    Along the lines of a recent Catch regarding asking questions:
    What are better ways to express what we try to achieve by attaching “Christian” as an adjective?
    1st Peter 3:15 exhorts us to live so that people ASK us about our hope (faith). I no longer wear symbols (some have labeled “Jesus junk), put bumper stickers on our vehicles (don’t want them tailgating me to read them) or carry a big Bible where ever I go. Seems to scare off those who need to be “fished”. In the 70’s the “One Way” with index finger pointing up was the popular identifier. I used to faithfully wear an orange button that declared “One Way, His Way. Guess how many stopped me to ask about my hope? While I was attending Purdue as an engineering student, a friend and I went out on campus to witness to other students. At the first question about our faith, I dumped a truckload on one solitary student. When I finally exhausted my presentation, I asked (finally) if she had any questions. She said she was quite overwhelmed and confused at the moment. I offered her a well written tract and suggested she might find it put things more clearly and if she had questions our church phone number was stamped on the tract. My mistake for getting caught up for so long with those who see themselves as HUNTERs of men.
    We are also supposed to be READY to give an answer. Are there classes? Am I supposed to take some thought before I engage in conversations? Can’t I just open my mouth and His Spirit will fill it? Do I really have to do it with meekness and reverence/fear? Is that due to God’s omnipresence and/or the best of His creation standing before me? (Adam and Eve were designated VERY good!) I would like to know some of the responses that draw people in like Jesus did with the Samaritan woman at the well.

    Sandi, I can scan FM radio stations and usually identify the “Christian” ones by the sound/style of the music even without the lyrics. I like listening to Switchfoot (and blue grass and Stravinsky and Two Cellos thanks to my mother’s influence). Some may find the various discussions on the web regarding whether Switchfoot is a Christian band thought provoking. My son introduced me to musicians who expressed their faith in the format of rap music. Can’t we all go back to Gregorian chants and be done with it? While taking a course on worship at Western Seminary, the instructor pointed out the it’s not the theology but the color of the carpet and the type of music that rank up top for divisiveness in churches. When Christ returns, will He recognize His church?

  4. Sandie says:

    David – I believe sincerely (and hopefully) that the moment Jesus returns will be the exact moment in time that every believer is exactly where he/she is supposed to be, doing and saying what they are supposed to – in other words, serving/worshiping Him in Spirit and in Truth. And I don’t think all of that will necessarily be occurring inside ‘church’ buildings. For me, church is wherever I am. The same with my service and worship. BTW, I can attest to your instructor’s observation, having been dragged (unwillingly) into those divisions over music among other things. Such a waste of energy when the world is literally starving for the Jesus we know. Blessings!

  5. peter leenheer says:

    I think it is St. Augustine who said, “Tell the gospel at all times and if you have to, use words”.
    Jane, my wife, decided to house foreign students in our home from the local university. In total we had nine students in all. The rules were to teach them to take public transportation to the university where they learned English to supplement what they learned in Japan or Korea. Jane also gave them a bag lunch every day when they went to school. In the evenings we would have supper together and have conversation about their home life and about Canada. We would have their friends over for dinner sometimes or have them cook a Japanese or Korean meal for us.

    The students mentioned that Jane gave them more kindness than their friends received in their accommodations. We were not allowed to talk about the Christian religion but we prayed before every meal they ate with us.
    There were times their friends were mistreated in the homes they boarded and we would help and encourage them to talk to the powers that be to solve their problems.
    Jane’s showing love to them had all nine grateful for their experience, and five of them asked if they could come to church with us and did.. We just loved them and tried to give them a north American family experience.
    It made me realize that living I Corinthians 13 is what it is all about. Live what you believe, the world is watching.

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