Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Memorial of Saint Barnabas, Apostle

From the 11th of the Acts of the Apostles:

In those days a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem,
and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch.
When he arrived and saw the grace of God,
he rejoiced and encouraged them all
to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart,
for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.
And a large number of people was added to the Lord.
Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul,
and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch.
For a whole year they met with the Church
and taught a large number of people,
and it was in Antioch that the disciples
were first called Christians.

I remember when I heard a preaching on the section in Acts where we are told about the first time the word Christian was used to describe believers. I don't know why that particular event so stuck in my mind but I do enjoy learning about the history of everyday words or phrases.

And 'Christian' is certainly an everyday thing! As a child growing up in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and attending Lutheran schools for 13 years, I don't remember the term used as much as I remember singing Blind Man Stood By The Road and He Cried with Mr. Debelak and his guitar strumming.
We had a friend of the family with whom I did some ministry work in Detroit, and she would always ask, when informed of a new girlfriend, 'Is she Christian?'.
I would answer something like 'I think she's catholic (or methodist or lutheran or whatever)' and she would immediately re-inquire, 'No, I mean has she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour?'

Wow. I never really knew how to answer that.

Until I did indeed 'accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour' and joined the merry protesting throng of sola scriptura- pounding and TULIP-thumping FUNDAMENTALISTS.
Then I knew how to answer that question for every person that ever lived ever! 'He's a Christian, she's a Christian, he's not a Christian, she's not a Christian.' There were only two distinctions!
'Saved' was one of the synonyms. And I knew who was and who wasn't.

And I knew!!! I knew the eternal spiritual status of anyone's soul.

Black or white, no shades of grey.

Oh wait, there were further subcategories of believers. If you were sinning flagrantly and publicly, you were 'backslidden', as in 'Yeah, he's saved, but he's been back-sliding for the last couple of months.'.

I don't get it. I don't get how we were so informed so as to be able to peer into the heart and rightly discern what only God Himself can see.

I like to think of another song we used to sing, when I think of the word Christian. I like to hum in my head 'And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they'll know we are Christians by our love'.

That's how the world will know, Charlie Brown.

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