However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.—1 Peter 4:16
It has become stylish in recent years for some people to identify themselves as “Jesus followers” rather than as Christians. According to a familiar explanation, the Christian brand has been compromised over the past couple of thousand years by bad actors labeling themselves that way. In response, some people apparently hope to separate themselves from unworthy Christians and associate with Jesus himself by calling themselves “Jesus Followers.” The logic sometimes explains that everyone likes Jesus, but no one likes Christians. I doubt the efficacy of the strategy. If Muslims start calling themselves Muhammad followers, most people will be smart enough to figure out they are Muslims, just as they would peg Buddha followers as Buddhists. People are similarly smart enough to know that “Jesus Follower” means Christian.
I do try hard to follow Jesus, and I sometimes call myself a follower of Jesus. But please call me a Christian too. I want to associate with Jesus Christ (first name and title inseparably together). I also want to be grouped together with those who confess him as Lord and Savior. I believe in the Church, the Beloved Bride of Christ that he will present to himself without spot or wrinkle, and I’d rather suffer a bad reputation with others who love the Lord than enjoy the favor of those who don’t. Furthermore, I seriously doubt that “Jesus Followers” have a better reputation than Christians do, even if they may be a bit hipper. Call me a stick in the mud, but hopefully, call me a Christian one.
One of the reasons I want to be called a Christian has to do with the first place disciples of Jesus were called Christians–the ancient city of Antioch (Acts 11:26). The Antiochians had a reputation for giving people political labels that stuck—like Donald Trump who has given his opponents derisive descriptive names like “Crooked Hillary,” “Crazy Bernie,” “Lyin’ Ted,” “Little Rocket Man,” etc. Just like Molly Ivins famous dubbed the followers of Ross Perot as “Perotistas” (thus deriding both them and the Peronistas of Argentina who followed Juan, Evita, and the other Perons), the Antiochians called the Jesus followers “Christians” to mock them. But the Christians leaned into the label and made it their own. They thought it better to be ridiculed for Christ than to be well regarded under some other label.
Call me crazy (or anything else), but I want to be called a Christian. The world has no new forms of opprobrium that can hurt us worse than the ancient Romans did, who dubbed us the haters of humanity (for refusing to worship civic idols and for our sexual ethics), called us cannibals (for the Lord’s Supper), vituperated us with other vile accusations, and then impaled us and burned us and fed us to lions in their arenas. I don’t think I’ll ever face those things, but in the end, whatever the consequences, I’m with Him.