When we were kids, the most important introductory questions revolved around favorite colors, games, and cartoons. As an adult, we ask questions about how we spend our time: what do you do? When I meet a college student, the question is usually, what are you studying? or, what are your goals? Then, what do you enjoy? Married?
When asked about myself, I usually respond with my first name, then come the questions about what I do and what I enjoy, what I think about this or that, or how I feel about the weather we’re having. If we met today, we’d probably talk for ten minutes about the pollen alone. Rarely…ok, never, has my first response to any question about myself been, ‘I am a Christian.’ I have never said, “My name’s Leslie. I’m a Christian.” I leave the question of faith for when “God opens a door” or I “sense” a special prompt from the Spirit.
Once people find out I home school my kids, though, they assume I’m a Christian. If I ever mention that I prefer to spend my free time reading, then the kinds of books I like to read comes up, and my faith can be discussed then. But, for the most part, it’s not the first bit of information I relate to someone I’ve just met.
“I am a Christian.’ For Sanctus, his whole identity — including his name, citizenship, and social status — was found in Jesus Christ. Hence, no better answer could have been given to the questions he was asked. He was a Christian, and that designation defined everything about him.” So explains John MacArthur in his book, Slave. He quotes one Roman historian:
They [would reply] to all questionings about them [with] the short but comprehensive answer, ‘I am a Christian.’ Again and again they caused no little perplexity to their judges by the pertinacity with which they adhered to this brief profession of faith. The question was repeated, ‘Who are you?’ and they replied, ‘I have already said that I am a Christian; and he who says that has thereby named his country, his family, his profession, and all things else besides.’
I know the context for his answer involves persecution. But if I’m not all that eager to mention my faith today, what makes me think I’ll answer in the affirmative when persecution comes? Lord willing, I’ll declare my identity with confidence.
I only mention this because I realized recently that it is all too easy for me to fall back into thinking of myself in terms of being an American or an Alabamian or Karl’s wife or a mother or “Leslie.” It’s been a while since I considered how Christian defines everything about me, that it is more than a system of beliefs.