Saturday, 20 August 2016

What's in a (Christian) Name?


A comment to a journalist by Pope Francis on the murder of Fr Jacques Hamel: The Pope (Jorge Mario Bergoglio) is reported to have said that "he doesn't like speaking about Islamic violence because there is plenty of Christian violence as well...[He] said that every day when he browses the newspapers, he sees violence in Italy perpetrated by Christians: 'this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law...and these are baptized Catholics! There are violent Catholics! If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence. And no, not all Muslims are violent, not all Catholics are violent. It is like a fruit salad; there's everything'."1

When will people understand that being a person who is a member of a 'religious' group does not mean that there is divine LIFE in them? 

Being called a 'Christian' means nothing. If you become a member of an athletics club and give money and even go regularly to it, does it make you a world class athlete? 

Tragically, even the man who heads up the organisation called the Roman Catholic Church thinks that being baptised as a baby automatically makes a person a Christian. A lot of people who are members of protestant religious groups think the same thing. Some even think that a person who is baptised as an adult is automatically a Christian. 

The problem here stems from the fact that many people use the word ignorantly, with no understanding of where the word came from in the first place. 

Originally, people simply said that they were followers of the Way.  Jesus had told them, (John 14:6) "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no-one comes to the Father but through Me." So they were simply followers of Jesus. 
Later, (Acts 11:26) it says, '.....and for an entire year they (Paul and Barnabas) met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.' 

It doesn't say that the disciples of Yeshua ha Meshiach called themselves Christians; it says that they were called Christians  - by implication, by others. The important thing to understand is that they were called Christians, because of the evidence that they had 'turned to the Lord', or had 'come to the Lord.' (Acts 11:21-25).
In other words, they had turned from their own selfish ways, and had joined Yeshua,  who called Himself, 'the WAY' and were transformed by His TRUTH and have His LIFE in them.

Someone who turns to Jesus with all their heart has become a new creation ...'Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.' (2 Corinthians 5:17) and the evidence is there for all to see in their life. 

So the early disciples in Antioch were called 'Christians', meaning 'Messiah's ones'. They now belonged to Jesus and had joined the Way of Truth and Life. So it is meaningless and completely misleading to speak of 'Christians' as the Pope does...  "violence in Italy perpetrated by Christians: 'this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law....'"  

Such people cannot be called Christians because by definition, a Christian is one who belongs to Jesus and has had his heart transformed by Him. As Jesus is not the instigator of evil actions, this one therefore does not act in this way. A follower of Messiah is filled with the love of God, and someone who loves does not do such things.

Now, some people, ignorant of this, perhaps because of the traditional things they have been taught, (people from the Middle East, for example) believe that the murderous knights, authorised by the Roman Catholic Church, to go to the Middle East on Crusades, were Christians, and therefore, all who call themselves 'Christian' are like those people. 
Members of my own (Western) family, baptised in a protestant denomination when they were children, think that they are Christians, because they see themselves as members of a certain church group, just as the Pope does. 
But they're wrong, nonetheless. They have never turned to the Lord, do not belong to Him and do not have His transforming TRUTH and LIFE in them. And as long as this misconception continues, people will call 'Christian' those who do not belong to the WAY the TRUTH and the LIFE, Who is Jesus. 

Another misconception is illustrated by the following:

The other day, someone gave an Iraqi Aramaic Baptist pastor and his family a lift in his car. He asked the pastor what name he used for God, and he said, 'Allah'. The first man asked him how this could be. So the pastor said that even he, the other man, used the name 'God' when speaking of the Lord. So the man said that this is a generic name, and not a personal one.

He asked if the pastor would call the gods of the Hindus, 'Allah' too, and the man protested strongly against it, saying that he would never call those gods by the name of 'Allah' - he would give those gods another name - something akin to 'elí-ha,' or (singular) 'él-a'.The man then said that he supposed that 'elí-ha' or 'él-a' would be the Arabic generic name for God, and the pastor agreed, realising therefore, that 'Allah' is a personal name.
The man then said that he would never call the Father of our Lord Jesus/Yeshua ha Meshiach by the name of 'Allah', because the character of our Father in heaven is so diametrically opposed to the character of Allah as shown in the Quran and demonstrated by those who call themselves his followers. (Muslim terrorists). He said that Allah is a demon.

The Baptist pastor thought about it and then had to say that the man had got him thinking. He said that he had the practise of calling YHWH, 'Allah' from his protestant translation of the Bible, the Van Dyck Version.
Clearly the translator, Cornelius Van Dyck, from whom the Bible translation's name comes, no doubt following the cultural practice of Christians, nominal or otherwise, known to him in the region, decided to use the name of 'Allah' for 'God' in his translation.

Most Middle Eastern Christians have probably never really thought through the ramifications of what they're doing, much as most Western Christians have never thought through the ramifications of many of the man-made, empty, traditional church practices of what they do.

Names mean different things to different people, depending on their background and what they have been taught by man's traditions. No wonder there is so much confusion.

God is not the author of confusion, but sent His Word and Spirit, so that He can lead us into all truth. May He lead us to know Him so that the Truth and Life are more and more revealed to us.



1 Quoted from Ibrahim, R. Pope Francis Equates Muslim and Christian Violence. FrontPage Magazine, 2 August 2016, re-published on the Middle East Forum.

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