If you were to ask ten people to define what being a Christian is, you would probably get a dozen different answers. The word is thrown around quite frequently, and is often embraced by people who have never so much as cracked the cover of a Bible. Claiming to be Christians, some people protest at soldiers’ funerals, bomb abortion clinics, and shout vile insults at pride parades.
Many struggle to define the concept. Is being a Christian someone that is a sold-out holy roller, or can the term also apply to the church CEOs (those who attend Christmas and Easter Only)? Can a person be a backslidden, lukewarm Christian, or are those terms mutually exclusive? Does one become a Christian by statement, or must there be an official joining of the club?
The old church historian Eusebius wrote about the account of a Roman Christian named Sanctus around 177 AD. In the days when being a Christian resulted in capital punishment, Sanctus was on trial for the crime of believing in Jesus. During his trial, no matter what question was posed to Sanctus, his answer was ever the same: I am a Christian.
Sanctus was tortured in the amphitheater where wild beasts had their way with him while he was strapped to a chair of burning hot iron. Even in his final breaths he continued to say those same four words.
The only time Sanctus uttered more than his brief sentence of Christianity was the time he elaborated on it. He is quoted as having said, “I have already said that I am a Christian; and he who says that has hereby named his country, his family, his profession, and all things else besides.”
What is a Christian? Sanctus understood that being a Christian meant every single detail of his life—his very identity—was centered on Jesus Christ. Maybe we should spend less time defining Christianity and more time living like Christ.
And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.