“Christian” and “Christians” are words used only three times in the New Testament: Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and I Peter 4:16. The way these words are bandied about today, you’d think they fill every other page of the New Testament.
Jesus never used these words. He preferred “disciple” or “disciples.” The word “believers” or “believer” also appears a few times in the New Testament. Today, it’s not enough to be a Christian, disciple, or believer.
Eliminating denominational names accorded Christians today as well as the more generally encompassing terms of Protestant and Catholic, there are still plenty of Christian appellations: evangelical, fundamentalist, born-again, liberal, conservative, mainline, Bible-believing, ecumenical, charismatic. And that probably only scratches the surface of modern Christian names.
What’s wrong with Christian? Or maybe just disciple? Or believer? Those words just don’t tell us enough about someone claiming to be a Christian, do they? If that’s all we know about someone or some group, how can we know whether he/she or they are legitimate?
When Jesus prayed his so-called High Priestly prayer in the gospel of John, He not only prayed for the disciples He was leaving behind but “also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me…so that they may be brought to complete unity.” (John 17:20-23, NIV) What a novel idea for convincing people to become Christians! Unity!
Christian fractures are nothing new. They began in the first century, and they have flourished in all the centuries since. How grief-stricken the Father and the Son, who are one, must be.