Noun or Adjective?

According the book of Acts, chapter 11, the first time followers of Jesus were called “Christians” was in the city of Antioch. It seems evident from the biblical context as well historical precedent that this label would have come about in a very natural way. Christians in Antioch grew in numbers, they were recognized as followers of the teachings of Christ, and so they were dubbed Christians.

The term “Christian” would literally mean “person who is like Christ” or “follower of the teaching and life of Christ.” in order to have this moniker applied to you, you must live a certain way; a way that is different from the majority. You are required to take on certain behaviors and beliefs.

Therefore, only a person could be a Christian. Only a person can choose particular behaviors and beliefs. “Christian” was a noun. A noun that would refer to specific individuals.

In our time “Christian” is commonly an adjective. It is a word that we use to describe and label things. This is a dangerous shift. We do not only identify people as being “Christian,” we use this word as a label for all kinds of items and activities. We have Christian music, Christian businesses, Christian art, Christian fiction, Christian breath mints, Christian counseling, Christian education, Christian greeting cards, Christian video games, Christian movies, Christian coffee houses, Christian t-shirts,  Christian causes . . . The list goes on.

The way I see it, two big problems develop when “Christian” becomes and adjective instead of a noun.

1.   We gauge the level of our faith by how much “Christian” stuff we surround ourselves with. When “Christian” is a word that describes things, it becomes less about our belief and behavior and more about those things that possess the “Christian” label. I become a better Christian if I listen to “Christian” music, hang “Christian” art on my walls, read “Christian” books, and hire the plumber with a fish on his business card. I can score even more points if I put a “Christian” bumper sticker or two on my car (which makes my car a “Christian” car) and hand out candy with Bible verses on the wrappers to trick or treaters.

All of this “Christian” paraphernalia may seem innocent, and even good, but it has come with a subtle and devious result. We can end up putting as much emphasis on our exterior as on our inner life that is transformed by the gospel of Jesus.

2.   We lose our ability to discern what is true, honorable, just, good, and lovely (Philippians 4:8). Let’s face it a pair of plastic praying hands that was made in China and bought for $1.47 on clearance at our local “Christian” book store is far inferior to a Monet. And yet we often feel that those praying hands have more value than a masterful painting because they have the “Christian” stamp, while Monet was not a “Christian” painter.

When we rely on the “Christian” label to tell of if something is good or not, we abdicate our responsibility to discern the goodness of things. Just because music is called “Christian” does not mean it is noble, and pure, and lovely. Just because a painting has a Bible verse under it does not make it good, and true, and beautiful.

We must look deeper than the label

“Christian” is a noun, not an adjective.

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5 Responses to “Noun or Adjective?”

  1. I can’t see other responses to your comments here, so I’m not sure if this is a discussion forum. I will give my “opinion” on your post. There are several different messages within this one that could be addressed but I will try to keep this brief. First, you do always bring a perspective an angle to the table that evokes thought and provokes discussion (something I think you want this to do). As I have thought in your messages several times, leaving me somewhat uncomfortable, is the grey area it leaves for someone who can’t get the absolutes from your message. So, my first question is always, WHO do you want your message to reach? Also, without citing the Word, a non-believer or a new follower does not know what you are trying to say. Even a well-fed follower may have trouble digeting what you’re saying. Wait wait wait, I am not critiquing you. I appreciate your post but don’t like the guesswork. Yes, guesswork! I always get a sense of liberality in your messages, so for me, Scripture is reaffirming when approaching (any) platform where God is the subject matter. Was this to teach or to give an opinion, or neither? For instance, rules are good, no matter what, bottom line…rules (in this manner as mentioned in a previous post) are good. We’ve been taught since we were born to follow the rules. I ran amiss in your post about rules, morals, and behaviors. Rules are good. Legalism is not. There is a vast difference. “Christian” this and thats are GOOD, no matter what. If a believer/follower or a wannabe uses stickers, shirts, praying hands, or whatever they choose to somehow express their interest in Christ, or love for Christ, etc Praise God! What’s bothering you in your message (as it came across to me) is that there is an idea that it means they got “points” for doing so. Which tells me your message is to the new-convert (or which ever term you use for a baby Christian). Why, because one who is seeking Him and growing in Him learns by the Holy Spirit in him that “point things” don’t matter. And as in the other discussion, behaviors do. So, the message is really about their (the people with the stickers) level in their life, in their own walk with the Lord that only God knows the depths of. Christianity is a lifestyle. Rules and paraphanalia are a healthy part of any Christian’s life and not to mention God loves boldness and passion. “Christian” is a noun and a verb and an adjective and an adverb, and a pronoun; if it must be defined as a part of speech. I personally don’t care for “political correctness”. No the label “Christian” doesn’t mean the “product” is pure and noble. Just like a bag of sugar labeled “Pure Cane Sugar” doesn’t mean what’s in it is good for you. I would have liked your post better if there was a question, answer, scriptural backup, or some absolute that defined it (your post). I did get out of it that I like rules and I like Christian “stuff” in people’s face! This could be many messages with a long discussion board. So, thanks for the post! 🙂 Keep the discussions coming.

  2. I cannot find all the posts to this, but earlier saw a post that “God does not care about how much sin we’re involved in”. I have to say “That’s disturbing!” God DOES care very much how much sin we’re involved in and it’s written all over the pages of the Bible. Give me one Scripture that says He doesn’t. And why would He give His SON for us if He didn’t? Hopefully that was mistated or the poster was very regretfully misinformed! According to my Bible “Sin” is mentioned more than any other subject. Romans 6:2 says “Since we have DIED TO SIN, how can we continue to live in it?” So if we still live in sin, God’s heart aches (strikethrough “cares”) over it. And furthermore, parents don’t fear their children sinning, because we know they will. We fear the consequences of their sin, just like God does. Because He “cares”. I pray that through this blog the Truth will be brought to light. That can only be done when the Bible is the source, otherwise the lost will just be lost-er.

  3. Proverbs 4:23
    Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

    Do you know that more than 25% of radio contains sexual content. We’ll leave out violence, drugs foer the sake of this conversation.

    Did you know that the average age of a first sexual experience is 15.8
    The everage length of their first sexual experience is 3.8 months
    24.3% of adolescents report having first sex during the same month as the start of the relationship {37.5% had 1 to 3 months after the start of the relationship and 40.1% after 4 months}
    23.4% of first sexual relationships were “one night stands” (21.2% girls; 26.5% boys)
    Girls reported there first sexual partner was 1.8 years older, on average; guys said .1 years younger
    16.7% of adolescents {20.6% girls and 11.2% boys} who took virginity pledges became sexual active. These stats are from Ron Luce’s book Battle Cry For a Generation.

    There are two directions I would like to go but again I am cutting it way short because I need to get to work. I don’t put all this “christian stuff” in my life for the reasons you mentioned. I do it to guard my mind and my heart because what goes in flows out. I put “christian stuff” around my family because the alternatrive is often offensive and disgusting. When I have a “christian label” on my car or elswhere I remember that I am a representativ of Christ therefore I need to be of good character, kind, loving, respectful, etc. I speak against impurity and live towards it because there are teens in my life who want and need to know the character of christ through me.

    Peace out-Gotta go. Hopefully I will meet you for a breakfast sandwich in about 45 mins.

    • I always appreciate the story that statistics can tell us. Thanks Bill. We are in a desperate situation. Especially when it comes to young people. The picture is not much better when looking at kids who are raised in Christian homes.

      I think some of the problem is an extended result of exactly what I wrote about in the post above. Christianity has been trivialized. A 15 year old boy often sees no problem with attending church meetings every week, going to Christian concerts, but engaging in very destructive behavior with friends at school. Mom and dad are pleased because he goes to the Christian concert and wears the Christian t-shirts, but he has never learned a deep relational faith and a way to guage his expressions and actions according to that faith (which is a significant step beyond following rules).

      The issues that plague young people, and all of society, are extremely complex. I am not suggesting a solution here. I am only pointing out a way that we have contributed to the problems.

      Your final remarks, Bill, about living a life of kindness, love, purity, and repect is what I think is key. The way that we behave, treat others, and represent Jesus will always have a much greater impact on people around us than any less personal expression of faith.

  4. “We gauge the level of our faith” –

    Let me start with http://www.biblelimericks.com, Archives, “Luke 17: 6 – More Faith, Less Faith?”

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