The word Christian began as a noun, not an adjective. You see, adjectives modify nouns that are larger and more important than they are. Adjectives are ornaments and lights you hang on nouns so that nouns become more alive and meaningful. When Christ is an adjective and not a noun, Christ becomes a label that we stick on the noun of our lives which then are the main subjects.
The church of Jesus Christ and every Christian in it needs a noun-consciousness again. True, nouns do not need adjectives, and even more importantly, nouns do need verbs. The isolation of things and thoughts from actions has been a serious mistake in the history of the Christian Church. A linguist once quipped he had learned to speak French except for the verbs. You can’t speak any language without verbs, especially the Christian language.
But the point is that in our culture today the word “Christian” in too many people’s minds stands for everything Jesus didn’t stand for – for instance, when a young KKK mother appeared in her cape and hood on the old Phil Donahue show. She shouted to the top of her lungs that she was going to raise her children to be good Christian kids.
Today we have everything from Christian Dance Clubs to Christian Aerobics presented under the title of “Firm Believers.” The head of a Christian Militia called the Oklahoma City bombing of an office building and day care center, “As fine a piece of art as any Rembrandt painting.”
We are living in a world in which there is now virtually a Christian everything – from Christian Comedy Clubs to Christian Coalitions. That is why Gordon MacDonald came under the conviction that the word Christian hardly means anything any longer. He never uses the word, but rather has developed his own word to replace it – “Christ-Follower.”
My soul followeth hard after Thee. Psalm 63:8 (KJV)