Summary: What does it mean to be a Christian? Likw the word "Gentleman", the percieved meaning of the word "Christian" has changed over the years. Student Ministry PowerPoint format.
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[A Christian and a Gentleman]
Slide graphic: The most excellent Mr. Darcy, portayed by Colin Firth in the A&E presentation of Pride and Predjudice
Slide text: What does it mean to be a Christian
Does anyone recognize this guy? This is the most excellent Mr. Darcy, from the A&E presentation of “Pride and Prejudice”, played by the actor Colin Firth. Mr. Darcy, in this epic novel, was a gentleman. Does anyone know what that means? That they behave well? That they are courteous? That they have honor?
Actually, the original meaning of the word “gentleman” meant none of these things. The word had a very precise meaning, which was nothing more or less than the fact that a man had a coat of arms and some landed property. In it’s original meaning, when you said that a man was or was not a gentleman you were not complementing or insulting him, you were just giving information about him. There was no contradiction in saying that someone was a gentleman and a liar, or in saying that someone was a man of honor, but no gentleman. The word “gentleman” had a precise meaning that was not a matter of opinion or judgment, it was a clear statement of fact.
Then, slowly, over time, people began to use the word differently. People began to say that it was less important whether a man had inherited land and a coat of arms than whether he behaved honorably – as a gentleman should. The word “gentleman” gradually ceased to be used to describe the fact (land and title) and began to be used to describe the expected behavior. In doing so, it really lost all meaning. Whether or not a man was a gentleman or not was a matter of opinion on which people could easily disagree.
When a word ceases to become a term of description and becomes merely a term of praise, it no longer tells you facts about the object, it only tells you about the speaker’s attitude about the object. The word “gentleman” now conveys little more meaning than that the speaker likes this person. The word has been spoiled for it’s original intent. Now, if you wish to use the word to convey the meaning of land and a title, you can’t do so without an explanation.
This same thing, this slow spoiling of the meaning of a word, is happening to the word “Christian”. The word is now being used to describe the way Christians should behave. To be “Christian” today means to be generous, self sacrificing, kind, and compassionate. And a Christian certainly should be all these things, just as a gentleman should be honorable, courageous and courteous. But the way a person behaves does not make them a Christian in the real sense any more than behavior makes someone a gentleman in it’s original sense. There is a movement, whether intentional or not, to mask the real meaning of the word.
Today I want to talk about the “real” meaning – what does it really mean to be a “Christian”?