Summary: A communion sermon
THE PEOPLE CALLED CHRISTIAN
Big Idea: Communion sermon celebrating the tie that binds; Jesus Christ.
In the 2nd century, when the Roman world was still confused about the identity and beliefs of the people called Christian, an unidentified believer tried to explain in a letter to Giognetus:
Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a particular form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life. This doctrine has not been discovered by the ingenuity or deep thought of inquisitive men, nor do they put forward a merely human teaching, as some people do …
They live in their own countries, but only as aliens … Every foreign land is their fatherland and yet, for them, every fatherland is a foreign land … they busy themselves on earth but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their lives they go far beyond what the laws require.
They love all men and by all men are persecuted. They are unknown and still they are condemned; they are put to death and yet they are brought to life. … They are completely destitute and yet they enjoy complete abundance. They are dishonored and yet in that very dishonor they are glorified; they are defamed and yet are vindicated. They are reviled and yet they bless; they are affronted and still pay due respect.
A lot of things have changed since that letter was written 18 centuries ago. But, still, in many places Christians find themselves an embattled minority. As you know, more Christians have been persecuted and killed in the last 100 years than in the preceding 19 centuries combined.
Christians still have some explaining to do. Many people, even in our society, still do not understand who and what the people called Christian are all about.
Why is this so when the Christians faith has been around for so long? We can understand why it had to be explained in the second century, it was new and they were few but not anymore – not today. Christianity is worldwide and the western civilization does not make sense apart from the presence and movement of Christianity.
Maybe … maybe that’s part of the problem. For many post-moderns Christianity is “just there.” It is part of the cultural and historical landscape. Like furniture in Grandma’s house, people don’t notice it – it’s just there and has always been there.
Unfortunately, for others Christianity does not mean to them what it means to us. Some will call a person “A fine Christian gentleman” and what they really mean is “he helps old ladies across the street and never kicks his dog.”
For others, it is associated with narrow-mindedness, intolerance, and mean-spirited. But these are poor caricatures of the people called Christian.
But who are these people called Christian? After all, we are all over the world.
There are some things that, regardless of where you find them, that Christians have in common.
1. CHRISTIANS ALL KNOW THE SAME PERSON
Christians know Jesus Christ. They do not know about Jesus, as a historical figure or good person, they know Him as their personal Savior and Lord. Most people find it easy to appreciate Jesus; even other religions acknowledge him as a good man and great teacher but Christians know him much differently and more intimately.
In Acts 11:26 it says “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” The pagans meant this as an insult but they accidentally got it right! To qualify as a Christians in those days required a personal pledge of allegiance to Jesus as Lord. It was considered treason to not pledge allegiance to Caesar and saying “No king but Jesus” put one’s life in jeopardy. Christians were not just courteous people who went to church on Sunday. Christians understood Jesus to be God’s ultimate answer to life’s problems. The commitment to Jesus was so radical that it was equated with being reborn … born again.
A prosperous merchant in Plymouth, England spent his whole life at home and on solid ground. One day he met a boyhood friend who spent his life as a sailor; he sailed with Admiral Hawkins and was classified as one of his “sea dogs.” The sailor was missing his teeth from scurvy, missing a leg, prematurely aged, and barely making a living. The merchant asked him condescendingly, “What have you got to show for your life on the sea?”
The old sea dog straightened up and replied without hesitation, “I am a confidant of and have sailed with the greatest seaman to sail the seven seas!”
Some people wonder what we have gotten out of being Christian. The world mocks.