Taking the family name for better or worse.
Over the last few years the term “Christian” has gone through some intense scrutiny. Many well intentioned believers have become hesitant to use that term because of all the baggage that is attached to it. At which point we developed all sorts of colloquial spiritual euphemisms as a substitute. When asked about our beliefs we answer with things like, I”m spiritual but not religious or I’m not a christian so much as I am a follower of Christ.
Isn’t it amazing how much power is in a name? A couple of words that come fully loaded with 2000 years of history for better or worse, from Crusades, church governments, revivals, and renewals to protests, outreaches, amazing music, not so amazing music and so on. It’s all there in this one word. Christian. Some of it’s embarrassing, hurtful, and destructive. Some of it is beautiful, redemptive, and compassionate.
My Mom got re-married to my step dad when I was five or so. I remember not totally loving the idea of their marriage at first. In fact I think I said something to the effect of, Why are going to have a wedding with him can’t you just marry me?”. Thankfully she declined my offer. Ten years later, when it was time to start thinking about getting my license and work papers I asked my parents an odd question. I asked if I could change my name. Legally I still carried my mothers maiden name. I had been sort of using my step-dads last name casually for years but the State is not cool with such in-formalities. I didn’t want to be the only one in our little family with a different last name. So we went to the courthouse, filled out the paper-work and presented our case. The judge granted the request and my “new” name became official.
I carry that name proudly. When I started my Advertising Company in 2007 I used my last name as part of the company title. But the Morris family doesn’t exactly have a spotless record. Our family history is full of alcohol and drug abuse, sexual misconduct, anger, abandonment and that’s just in the last two generations. Lord knows what kind of skeletons lie in the closets of the Morris clan 1200 years ago in Scotland. At 15 though, I wasn’t concerned with any such sentiment. All I knew was I loved my family and wanted to share their name.
And maybe that’s what the name Christian is. Maybe it’s less about an ideology and more about taking a family name. I mean, there are numerous references in scripture to us being the family of God and Jesus teaches us to pray “our Father”. And if it is a family name, doesn’t that mean we have an opportunity to do it justice, to carry it with pride, and try to bring just a little restoration? The truth is even will all of the horrible things that have been done in the name of Christianity there have been some beautiful ones as well. Those are the stories that need to be told, lived, and written. As believers we have a unique opportunity to re-define what Christianity means in our family, neighborhood, and spheres of influence.
Is it possible that Christianity doesn’t have to be shaped by Jesus fish and WWJD bumper stickers? Can we be known for more than having our own t-shirts and music? Is there a chance for us to show the world what we are about and not what we are against? We chose to be in this family for a reason. I hope that reason was as a response to a Loving God and not to attain some sort of fire insurance. The early church was known for it’s generosity, for how it took care of the orphans, widows, and needy. That’s how the gospel was spread, people experienced the good news, they didn’t just hear about it. Community is not sharing MY life with YOU, or YOUR life with ME, It's sharing HIS life with EACHOTHER.