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Title: The Christian And Character _1
The word “Christian” first appeared in the bible when it was used to describe a group of followers of Jesus Christ who had gathered at a location in Antioch:
“And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch”.
Acts 11:26 KJV
The same word was to later appear in two other sections of the bible. First occasion was when the Apostle Paul had to defend himself before Festus the governor and King Agrippa who was reputed to be an expert in Jewish laws and customs – Acts 26:3. King Agrippa in response to the question asked by Paul had stated that Paul was almost going to persuade him to becoming a Christian with his argument:
“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian”. – Acts 26:28 KJV
The use of the same word by Simon Peter was to be the second occasion after its initial use in Antioch. In his epistle to all believers, he encouraged them not to be ashamed if they have to suffer because of the gospel:
“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf”.
1 Peter 4:16 KJV
Though the word was used on those occasions, two instances of its use were by people who were not part of the group of believers, at least by the time of its use. The use of the word by Simon Peter was more in an advisory circumstance basically on how one who belongs to the group should conduct him/her self using a set of Christian rules as standard. On that occasion, Simon Peter implied that the Christian need not worry if the experience classed as suffering is the result of a decision to live a life guided by such standards.
In the case of the Apostle Paul, his defense was basically to remind those listening of the way of life he was living before his conversion, the new way of life that he had chosen to live by and his arguments to justify this new way of life. These series of behavioral patterns was what the Jews found unacceptable arguing that it was against their belief. It was also this way of life that was observed by onlookers in Antioch and having experienced the way of life that Christ lived, saw similarities and so decided to coin the word Christians. The people in reference had been going through teachings for a whole year.
The common denominator on all these three occasions when the word “Christian” was used is the reference to the way of life of the individual or the groups in reference. It was with regards to their actions in some situations, and reactions to some events, which were similar, when compared with the way Christ reacted to same events. Also is the fact that those in Antioch had been receiving teaching for more than a year, Paul was presenting what the syllabus that he was trained with by Ananias looked like whilst Simon Peter was giving a lecture on what will be expected of the new convert, after receiving teachings about the Christian life.
All these actions and reactions patterns can be summarised with a single English word called character, so it can be safely concluded that it was character that was in focus on those occasions, and the similarity of the character on display or the expected character to be displayed, to that of Jesus Christ was the focus. It was not about what they called themselves but about what people called them, which in itself was their assessment of their behavioral pattern. The word stuck and remained over centuries but there is a huge doubt if the character of the personalities being so described today can justify such identity. Over time, there seem to be so much lowering of the character quality of the bearers of that name, and this questions whether those who gather today can still be called Christians.
This concludes the first part of this article which will be concluded next week. Please send your reactions to this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.