What is a Christian?

I’m not going to call myself a Christian anymore. Instead I’d rather be known as a “close friend of Jesus Christ.” Everyone who has ever stepped foot in a church calls themselves a Christian, yet I wonder if many of them really know Jesus at all. You see, Jesus called those who do God’s will His brothers and sisters.

It made me think of the show “Blue Bloods.” The show is based around an Italian family whose “family business” is law enforcement. Even though the matriarchs of the family are both gone (mom and grandma have died), the entire extended family, sons, daughters, in-laws and grandchildren, gathers at least once a week for a family meal. They don’t miss unless they are working or on vacation. Nothing takes precedence over the family meal.

My family had a similar gathering pattern. As a child, I spent time with my maternal grandparents and great-grandparents at least weekly before they died. And my siblings and I were well aware we would be going to my paternal grandparents at least two Sundays a month. Grandma Meyer always had at least half a dozen pies waiting because all of the local aunts, uncles and cousins would be there by late afternoon.

The body of Christ is called to be a family. We are to be more than what the modern day church calls “Christian.” Hebrews 10 tells us to make sure we keep meeting together. I don’t want anyone to ever think that “marking attendance” is more important than a relationship with Jesus Christ, but the honest truth is part of the way we can measure how close we are to Christ is the priority we give to meeting with the “family.” If the following list was the criteria for for measuring your relationship, what would your category be?

Close Family or best friend – attends every Sunday plus Bible Study – corresponds to the Bible Apostles
Second cousin or casual friend – attends 75% of the time – corresponds to the Bible disciples
Close enough I should go to the funeral – attends 50% of the time – corresponds to the Bible followers
Comes to the annual family reunion – has a church to call home and goes when it’s convenient – corresponds to the Bible crowd

As you can tell by the third column, a lack of commitment by people who call themselves Christian has been going on since Jesus started His ministry. I’m sure the folks in the “crowd” thought they knew Jesus. They’d heard Him preach and eaten with Him on more than one occasion. These are the ones who lined the streets when they heard He was coming to town, but because they didn’t know Him like they thought they did, they are the same ones who stood in front of Pilate yelling, “Crucify Him!”

In case you’re wondering about the difference in disciples and followers, Mark 10 says that when they headed toward Jerusalem, the disciples were astonished, but the followers were afraid. Both groups knew that Jerusalem was a dangerous place for Jesus to be. Everyone was aware that the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus dead. So the disciples were surprised that Jesus was walking right into their headquarters, but they weren’t afraid. The disciples knew that Jesus had it under control. They’d not only seen Him work miracles, they believed that He could do things they couldn’t imagine. They weren’t afraid because they knew they were friends with the Son of God.

The followers on the other hand were frightened. What was going to happen to them if someone in Jerusalem found out they were following Christ? Should they keep it under wraps? Would they be better off distancing themselves from this man who calls Himself the Messiah? Following was a fun thing to do sometimes, the company of Jesus was an exciting place to be, but it wasn’t a priority. It is easy for a follower to fall away because the commitment level just isn’t there.

But if you read Mark 10:32 closely you see that the highest level of commitment is where we all should want to be. Jesus “took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen.” They had the inside scoop. The apostles were Christ’s closest friends, His confidants! That is the circle I want to be in. It’s the circle Joshua chose thousands of years before (Joshua 24:15). It’s the circle Moses and Abraham walked in. This is the circle founded by those folks from Hebrews 11.

This is why the leadership of our church (and probably yours) emphasizes church attendance. We don’t care about the numbers. It’s not a notch on our belt or bragging rights. We don’t want you to come because we want your money. We want you to be in worship and Bible Study because we know that’s where the Apostles are. We want you to be in the inner circle, the core, the ones closest to Christ. We want you to be the first ones to get a Word from Him, we want you to be His confidants.
All four of those categories (and even a few who think they are “good people” but don’t even have a church home) call themselves Christian. Yes, I am a Christian, but I prefer that you think of me as Jesus’ closest friend, His confidant, His family.

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