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We live in an age of generalizations and labels. We make generalizations like “Teenagers are irresponsible” or “White people are racists” when there are innumerable examples to show that such is not the case. And we use labels in the same way. We may refer to some-one as being a liberal or a conservative, and by that label we infer that we know their political position on every issue. Often the practice of labeling people is a type of generalization. For instance, we refer to entire demographic groups as “Christian” when in reality there may be very few Christians in the group. A crime-ridden inner-city area may be designated as “Christian,” and the incongruity of such isn’t even noticed. Originally, “Christian” was not a name for a class of society or a label that sometimes distinguished one nation over another.

Acts 11:26 and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

From this verse we learn that, both by name association and conviction, the believers in Christ were called Christians. The name reflected the discipleship of the bearer; the discipleship of the bearer reflected the character and the teachings of the One they followed. Being a disciple is demanding in every way.

Luke 9:57-62 57 As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 59 And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” 60 But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” 61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

One of the most unscriptural practices of our era is to call (label) someone a Christian when that person so designated is not and was not a disciple of Christ. To be born within the geographic borders of a certain nation does not qualify one to be a Christian. King Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:27). One cannot be a Christian without having been persuaded by the truth of the gospel! Even Agrippa knew that.

A Christian is one who calls upon the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16); but calling upon the name of the Lord not only implies obedience to the Lord, it demands it! Jesus said, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk. 6:46).

Within the conservative group of the Republican Party, there is a term of derision applied to those who are deemed to be untrue to the principles of the GOP. Such are called RINOs or Republicans In Name Only. But is there any term more derisive and more disconcerting than to find oneself labeled by the Lord as CINO – Christians In Name Only? Jesus did as much in the letter sent to the church at Sardis: “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Rev. 3:1).

Jesus once said of Nathaniel, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (Jn. 1:47). What will He say of you?

Keep studying! DC Brown ©2013