In my last post I stated, “Identifying oneself as a Christian is not necessarily wrong, in the right context.” Some people have asked me to clarify right context, so here it is.
Almost any place in America (pay attention to almost) I would freely and happily use the term Christian. Even an American pagan would understand the word Christian and not see it as a loaded political issue. However, if I were working with Muslims in Detroit the term “follower of Isa” may very well be a preferred term. To the ayatollah in Iran, to the ISIS fighter in Syria, to the Muslim in the boroughs of New York the word Christian does not conjure up the face of Jesus by the Sea of Galilee but American interventionism.
To the average Westerner, Islam is not the religion of fasting, praying five times a day or taking the Hajj (what’s that?), but religious outsiders encroaching on the values and lifestyle they cherish.
To a Hindu a Christian is that Western religion brought over by the colonialists. However, to the every-day secular, post-Christian or to the average nominal believer, the label Christian is very appropriate.
To those rattled by me making a case for not using the word Christian to describe myself, two points. (1) Christian is used only three times in the scriptures whereas the term the Way is used five times (referring back to Christ description of Himself – Jn 14:6). (2) In many situations people qualify their term by adding on that they are “evangelical Christians,” Bible-believing Christians,” “Spirit-Filled Christians,” “Born-Again Christians,” and a hundred other qualifiers.
The three maxims of real estate are location, location, and location. The three maxims of communicating the Gospel are context, context, and context. In my class I make it very clear, it is the context that gives meaning, not the word. Even God's word has no affect if not put into context. Know your context and you won’t have a problem identifying yourself in Christ.