When [Barnabas] found [Paul], he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year.... (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.) (Acts 11:26).
Back in 2001, Mark Cuban, owner of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Dallas Mavericks, offered WGN Chicago Radio sports-talk host David Kaplan $50,000 to change his name legally to “Dallas Maverick.” When Kaplan politely declined, Cuban sweetened the offer. Cuban would pay Kaplan $100,000 and donate $100,000 to Kaplan’s favorite charity if he took the name for one year. After some soul searching, Kaplan held firm and told Cuban, “No.” Kaplan explained: “I’d be saying I’d do anything for money, and that bothers me. My name is my birthright.”
Just as Kaplan’s name is his birthright, early followers of Jesus took on the name “Christian” as their lifetime birthright. As Barnabas and Saul ministered in Antioch, they taught great numbers of people. Through the ministry of the Spirit and preaching of the gospel, the church continued to grow numerically (Acts 2:41).
These early believers in Antioch were living so much like Jesus Christ that people who didn’t follow Jesus gave them the name “Christians.” The ending “ian” meant belonging to the party of; thus “Christians” were those who belonged to Christ. Bearing that name ultimately became a source of persecution, but Peter encouraged believers not to be ashamed of their birthright and suffering for bearing the name “Christian” (1 Peter 4:14).
For the follower of Jesus, “Christian” is our birthright, and no amount of money, suffering, or abuse should cause us to compromise that name. On the contrary, that name should be a source of praise to God, for it identifies us with Christ and the blessings of salvation (v.13). We have a responsibility to live every day to bring honor to the name of Jesus and the name “Christian” (v.19).
Read Philippians 3:10 and see what Paul said about his identity with Jesus and the hope associated with it.
When are you most tempted to compromise the name “Christian”? What distinguishable marks do you bear that could lead people to associate you with Jesus?