So… which is more politically correct: “Christian Feminist” or “egalitarian?” Which one sounds better: “Christian” or a “Follower of the Way?” What do I put in the “Religious Views” section of my facebook bio? Do I just use a scripture reference? Better yet, a deeply intellectual quote by C.S. Lewis? Or if I want to get really sexy/obscure with it, Saint Augustine? Should I just stop calling myself a Christian because of the negative connotations associated with the word?
I’ve seen Christians get really creative here. Go look at your Christian friends’ profiles and notice the creative ways they define their faith. It’s an honest struggle and a good question: “what is the most graceful way I can explain my faith to people who might end up not liking me for it?” It can be a good boundary to use in certain situations but past a certain point, I think a better question might be: should I be worried about whether the abstract/nameless/faceless crowd wants to make me king or crucify me?
Jesus faced moments of popularity and rejection and He was equally suspicious of both.
Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.
-John 2:23-25, NLT
Jesus’ decisions were neither influenced by praise nor by criticism and because of that, I believe He was truly free to be Himself. Praise can control you just as much as criticism. We often talk about the negative effects of criticism but rarely address what to do when people praise us. Jesus did not define Himself or his success by good ratings. He knew exactly who He was because He had been baptized by a Father who gave Him His identity.
So let’s say you do find that perfect “un-Christian” but “Christian” word to label yourself and the whole “secular” world applauds. Aren’t you still a follower of the very problematic Christ? If the issue is about having a perfectly likable public persona, you won’t have that as a follower of Christ. In fact, no one has that.
Christ had the SAME group of people fight to make Him King one season and crucify Him the next. Do you remember when the crowd tried to force Jesus to be King (John 6:15)? What did He do? He withdrew to a mountain by Himself. Jesus got away from the noise to go pray to His Father. I believe Jesus lived His life aligning and re-aligning His mind the with the long-term vision. In those moments on the mountain, He remembered who He was. That made it easier for Him to live a life where He wasn’t swayed by the crowds demands or promises.
“The crowd” (we all have ours) has no fixed mood. It is as temperamental as a new-born baby. In John 4, Jesus was preaching a sermon. Things were going well. Around verse 22, the crowd was “amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips.” Fast-forward to verse 29 and suddenly, they wanted to throw Him off a cliff (not figuratively, I might add). 7 VERSES! It took them 7 verses to turn on Him! I think many of us get tripped up because we hope we can do this God-journey and have everyone everywhere like us too. Jesus basically says that’s impossible and even He couldn’t do it so… it’s a fruitless battle to hope you will get a thumbs up from everybody.
But here’s some good news: in the very same speech where Jesus promised that the road would be difficult (John 15:18-21), He also promised His peace (John 14:27). I’m not saying you should run around trying to piss people off on purpose. I’m just saying, don’t go out of your way to avoid it. It literally doesn’t matter so much whether the crowd is happy or sad because that can shift in the blink of an eye. Jesus focused more of His attention on His close-knit community of disciples. I think His emotional and spiritual investments were better spent on them rather than on “the crowd.” Anybody can pop up and side with your party without really being down for the cause. Know who’s really on your team. Above all, God is the one audience member whose opinion counts 🙂