Why I don’t Call Myself a ‘Christ-Follower’

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I follow a lot of great blogs that keep me in touch with the wider Christian community and keep me from being insular with my Episcopal tradition — an easy trap to fall into because so many Episcopalians are quite awesome. (understatement of the year) But out in my blogosphere, I’ve noticed a lot of people who describe themselves as ‘Christ-followers.’ As wonderful as they are, I can’t adopt that same title for myself.

First, I’ve known some people who use this term in lieu of ‘Christian’ because they feel that Christian is a word tarnished with an ugly history  presence of power, abuse and violence. And in a lot of cases, they’re right. But I’m too much a believer of change-from-within to veer from the institution. When I lived in South Africa, I really grew to embrace calling myself a ‘missionary’ despite the Poisonwood Bible-esque perception I had before. Maybe with ‘christian’ and ‘missionary’ it’s part self-fulfilling prophecy- that by believing a negative attitude we contribute to that negative attitude. But when we continually, humbly but unapologetically redefine those words through our lives, we do more. 

But second, I feel like Christ-follower puts distance between me and Jesus and makes the Christian journey sound linear. That maybe Jesus, instead of living in my heart, is someone who walked on a snowy sidewalk before me, and I’m just trying to keep the snow pristine by following those footsteps. Maybe I’m doing it all wrong, but that sounds entirely too easy. My own journey has been too nuanced and filled with unexpected growth.

My rector often says “The goal is not merely to be Christ-like, but to become Christ in the world.” It took me months of chewing on that before I decided Michael wasn’t crazy. It puts the accountability on us instead of somewhere else, which for this stubborn Christian is just the fire under the butt that I need. 

“Christ has no body now but yours.”- Teresa of Avila

Am I completely misunderstanding what people mean when they say ‘Christ-follower’?

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