The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
What’s in a Name?
Nicknames often serve the purpose of helping us remember certain characteristics of people. Olympic snowboarder Shawn White was given the nickname “the Flying Tomato” because, in his early years of competition, he had a full head of blazing red hair. Nicknames are often created to highlight something that is unique about an individual or a group.
That was the case in Antioch during the ministry of the apostle Paul. The term “Christian” is very well-known today. That was not the case then. Christianity as a religion was very young. The gospel of Jesus Christ had not yet reached to the ends of the earth, as it has today. But in Antioch, residents of the city began to notice there was something different about a certain group of people. They weren’t as concerned about social status as their neighbors. They didn’t worry quite so much when trouble or unexpected challenges came. They were not so eager to hold grudges when someone sinned against them. In fact, they readily forgave.
The residents of Antioch eventually realized that each person in this group had one thing in common. They believed that Jesus Christ was the Savior of the world. So a nickname was born—“Christ”-ians. Christians were known as people who loved Christ.
What are you known for loving? Those who see your life also see what you love. They see where you spend your time, how you spend your money, how you treat others, and how quickly the troubles of life cause you to worry. Whether or not anyone gives you a nickname, others can often see what you love most by looking at your life.
Just like we can when we look at Jesus. Look at his cross, and it is remarkably clear what he loves more than anything. He loves you. He believed that you are someone worth dying for. Jesus wants you to know that, whatever sins you have committed, however often and eagerly you have loved something more than you have loved God, you are forgiven. He wants you to know that nothing in all creation will keep you from one day enjoying the perfection of heaven.
For the Christians in Antioch, as well as for us today, that was a gift worth far more than anything this world could give.
Dear Father in heaven, thank you for the gift of forgiveness won for us by your Son, Jesus Christ. Give us strength and wisdom to live our lives in such a way that, through us, others see the significance of his sacrifice. Amen.