How a person answers this question reveals more about their true believe than many realize. Some talk more about the community of faith, or serving others, helping people, political causes, or making the world a better place than they do about the bedrock foundation of Christianity: Jesus Christ himself.
The word "Christian" was originally a derogatory term used against those who followed the Messiah that was crucified and was said to have risen from the dead in the 1st century. The term "Christian" literally meant "little Christ."
So, rather than being identified by a set of beliefs, a political stance, a community, a creed or a station within society, the first Christian believers were known by their identification with the man Jesus Christ. Sure, they were a close knit group that loved each other ferociously, but that was not their identity. Who there were was evident to all. They identified themselves with Jesus and Jesus alone.
So let me ask you? Are you a "little Christ?" Would someone look at you and say that ultimately your very identity is so connected to this ONE MAN that people would deride you for making his identity your own? Because that is what happened to the earliest believers.
In his book "Dissident Discipleship" David Augsburger defines a Christian as someone who is Radically Attached to Jesus.
I Like that.
A radical attachment to the man Jesus and EVERYTHING that He taught. Augsburger put it this way:
Attachment to Jesus, we must first clarify, is neither admiration (though Jesus fully deserves admiration) nor adulation (although that may result from attachment), nor assimilation into a culture and lifestyle (although that is inevitable). Attachment is actual encounter with the Jesus of the Gospels and engagement with his utterly radical claims on us and on creation. To state this in concise propositions:
- To be a Christian is to be absolutely convinced that Jesus is the Christ and that Christ is the Lord of creation.
- To acknowledge that Christ is Lord is to admit that human life can be understood only in terms of Christ's intentions for creation.
- To understand human life in terms of Christ's intentions for creation is to perceive that Jesus's activity for the world is totally pervaded by nonviolent agape love and by renunciation of power, of justice for oneself, and of purpose-driven effectiveness.
- To participate in Christ's activity is to shoulder the weight of restoring love toward offenders, of forgiving the guilty, of responding nonresistantly when attacked, of acting on behalf of justice for others in loving, nonviolent ways.
- To follow Jesus is to willingly accept his way of unlimited love (agape), to accept the call to self-renunciation (the cross), to accept self-relinquishment through giving up sin and its defenses (the way of discipleship), and to accept inner self-transformation in repentance and a new life (resurrection)
David Augsburger. Dissident Discipleship: A Spirituality of Self-Surrender, Love of God, and Love of Neighbor (p. 50). Kindle Edition.
To be a Christian means Jesus tells us who we are and that by radically attaching ourselves to him we are renouncing who we think we are for His definition of who we are. The early Church believers did this and were ridiculed for it by being called "Little Christs." Today, many have chosen the title "Christ follower" instead of Christian, but I am not sure Christ follower is enough. There were many who followed Christ, but it was only those who allowed themselves to be fully transformed and overtaken by Christ himself that were considered a part of His Kingdom.
Those who accepted this total abandonment of self found themselves in ways never imagined. Strength where weakness once resided. Dignity in humiliation. Love in the midst of hate, and hope in despair. This is what Jesus meant when he said that we must die to ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow him. To follow him is to abandon ourselves to Him. Everything we think we are is gone.
"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. Behold, the old has gone, ALL THINGS have been made new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)
If your commitment to Christ is merely one part of your life, then you are not radically attached to Jesus and cannot be described as a "little Christ." Jesus must be your life.
Jesus is your life.