Can angels be Christian?
I’m not asking if they can be saved, redeemed, washed in the blood, baptized, regenerated, or pray a prayer to receive Jesus into their hearts.
But if books …
… businesses …
… buildings …
… magazines …
… movies …
… associations …
… and dating services …
…can be Christian, why not angels?
And if athletes …
… celebrities …
… politicians …
… economists …
… radio hosts …
… authors …
… and artists …
… can be Christian, why not angels?
Okay, I know the Are-angels-Christian question is silly. I’ve purposefully overstated the case because, though the question is facetious, the idea behind it isn’t. I’m curious as to why we attach the word Christian to anyone or anything.
I know from Scripture, “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:26b NIV), but I’m under the impression that’s what nonbelievers in the first century A.D. called those who followed the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent, addressed a related topic recently on her blog. She raised an interesting question about books. Should we label them “Christian” so people know what they’re getting? If you follow the link to her blog, I’d recommend reading the comments as well as the initial article.
What I especially found intriguing were some of the responses. Several people said something like this. “I’m a Christian but I don’t want to read Christian stuff because it’s so bad.”
My personal opinion is you don’t need a warning label, whether Christian or otherwise, because enough people will let you know how good or bad a story is. They’ll include the offensive parts, if any exist, to discourage people from reading the book (which, as we all know, often has the don’t-touch-that-button opposite effect).
Is that story Christian?
Is that guy a Christian?
Is that enchilada Christian?
Again the last question is ridiculous, but I want to make a serious point with it. When someone asks, “Is [blank] Christian?” the answer, whether yes or no, doesn’t offer much insight.
Let me illustrate.
Is the book you’re reading Christian?
Great. I like Christian books. What’s the title?
Ah, that’s too bad. I think Christian books suck.
Not much meat in that exchange is there?
Is the guy you’re dating Christian?
Great. You won’t be unequally yoked.
Ah, that’s too bad. You love to dance.
Not much meat in that exchange either.
I’m not against the word Christian, but I believe using it to describe a person or a thing often prevents us from investigating any further. Personally I want to know more than if a book or a guy or an enchilada is Christian.
What’s the plot? What themes emerge? Is it well written? Does the book have anything that might offer insight or encouragement? Would you recommend it?
Is he trustworthy? Is he generous? How does he treat his parents … his sister … his dog?
Paul wrote to Timothy, a young pastor, about leadership in the church. “Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect” (I Timothy 3:2-4 NIV).
I want to note that Paul doesn’t even address the is-he-a-Christian question in his list.
Well, of course not. It’s assumed.
Sure, but Paul shares a more helpful list that we would be wise to build upon. Listen to these questions based on Paul’s words.
What’s his reputation in the community?
How does he treat those in his family?
How does he handle money?
Does he get drunk?
Is he quarrelsome?
Does he demonstrate wisdom and is he able to give wise counsel to others?
A person needs to give me more than “he’s a Christian” before I can get excited. Again, I’m not knocking the term. I just want more descriptive words that draw a clearer, sharper picture.
When a person says, “I’m not going to any church where Jackson Stoner’s a member,” my first question isn’t, “Is Jackson Stoner a Christian?” (My apologies to any readers named Jackson Stoner out there—pure stab at an obscure name on my part. Feel free to name your next child or pet Jackson Stoner.)
I had a conversation with a friend who made a similar statement. His words tabbed another man as perhaps one who confessed Jesus as his Savior but who also had a mean streak in him.
So here’s what I suggest.
Recognize the limited understanding of the word Christian. The term, at best, takes a shortcut to making a positive impression. At worst, it short-circuits a conversation by putting a negative barrier in a hearer’s mind.
Be more creative, precise, and intentional. How could you describe the same thing in a different way? When I review a book, I recount meaningful passages, general structure, emerging themes, etc. But I don’t say, “This is a Christian book by a Christian author.”
I wrote this in my review of Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. “If I gathered folks together for a book club conversation, I’d choose this [book].”
In January, I changed my blog’s name from The Journey to A Curious Band of Others. Why? Because The Journey was too generic and got lost among so many other people’s journeys.
And that’s what happens, in my mind, when a person, a book, or whatever is deemed Christian. Her/his/its distinctive significance gets lost.
Questions: If you scratched Christian from your vocabulary, how would you describe yourself, your work, or someone else who follows Jesus Christ? Do you think saying someone or something is Christian should suffice?
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