What’d you call me?

Nehemiah 1:1-11
It seems like some of us are more Republican than Christian. More Democrat than Christian. Even more American than Christian.

Forgive me if that sounds too harsh. I could be overreacting.

But I say that because I’ve listened to a lot of Christians. And as much as I try to stay away from the comments section, I do get sucked in from time to time.

It might be too much to say we’ve lost our identity in Christ. But why does it feel like “Christian” is only another label? Christian music. Christian books. Christian t-shirts. Christian movies. Christian breath mints?

I’ve reflected on Acts 11:26 before. This is where Barnabas and Paul meet and spend a year teaching the church. “It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians.'”

It could be they came up with that name themselves. Chances are, it was a sarcastic way others identified them. I take that to mean those early disciples committed themselves to their collective walk with Jesus. Acts even said many Christians devoted themselves to their spiritual growth. So much so that other people now needed a nickname for them. Their life centered so much on what they were learning about Christ that it was the dominant quality other people saw in them.

Now, all those jokes about getting out of church by noon come from somewhere. If the outside world were to see our devotion to all things Jesus, would they come up with a name like Christian?

There’s a particular feature of our discourse that leads me to believe we’re less Christian and more everything else. It’s the way we talk about “those” people. We tend to blame a lot of things on those people. Of course, those people are those people whose voting record is different than ours. It’s too obvious they are the ones who are less faithful and God-fearing than us. They have ruined our country. They have done so much harm. Poor us for having to put up with them.

Let me offer you a biblical example of the short sightedness of that kind of thinking. It’s Nehemiah. Before he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, his heart ached for his people. From his place in the Persian capital, he prayed for those left in the ruins of Jerusalem. Notice how he prays.

He asked God to hear his prayer day and night. This wasn’t a one-time prayer. And what filled his prayers? He confessed their sins “which we have sinned against you. Both I and my family have sinned.”

Nehemiah was a faithful person. His humble prayer is a powerful witness for us to consider. He accepts blame for their condition. He didn’t shame his people. He joined in prayer with them. And he wasn’t pinpointing another group’s faults. It was his people, himself included, that needed forgiveness from God.

If we’re going to be more Christian than say American, this is a great lesson to learn. Now, this doesn’t mean we can’t disagree with each other. It certainly doesn’t mean we can’t hold one another accountable to our shared values. But it does mean we are sharing our burdens together. And we can do so in a way that reflects our Christian name and convictions. May God forgive us if we’re more willing to live in disunity than in Christ.

Stay blessed…john

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