“Are you a Christian?” was the question that the gunman in the recent Oregon community college shooting asked many of his victims. The individuals who answered “Yes,” were shot in the head. The ones who did not answer, or answered “No” were shot in the legs. Why did the gunman deliberately target “Christians” for the severest punishment? The Bible indicates that the world would be hostile toward people whose faith is centered in Christ in the last days.
Paul, Peter and Jesus did not write or speak prescriptively, but rather descriptively, concerning the end times. They had been shown by Divine insight and foresight what would happen futuristically. Amazingly and accurately they described, what’s unfolding before our very eyes. In I Timothy 4:1-2, the Apostle Paul stated:
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,” [underline and bold print mine]
The Oregon gunman, the Charleston shooter (Dylan Root), the Roanoke, VA, shooter and the ISIS beheaders, all had their “conscience seared with a hot iron.” You cannot commit the heinous crimes that they committed unless you have a seared conscience. While writing this post, eleven followers of Christ were beheaded in Syria because of their faith.
Jesus described a world that would be hostile toward His followers in the last days.
“But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11).
The Apostle Peter wrote, “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.” (1 Peter 4:7)
In light of the fact that the end time is near, my thesis is:
Believers are to be devoted to prayer and depend on the Holy Spirit to inspire answers to end- time persecution.
Jesus said that He “was hated without a cause” (John 15:25). Jesus taught that the world hated Him before they hated His followers (John 15:18). Jesus declared that His followers would be hated by the world (John 17:14). In Luke 21:17, Jesus said one of the signs of His coming would be “And you will be hated by all for my name sake.” “…and they will put some of you to death” (Luke 21:16b).
In Charleston, in Oregon, the beheading of the Coptic Christians in the Middle East, the church burnings and in the arrest of Kim Davis, we are seeing these Scriptures fulfilled concerning the persecution of believers in the last days.
Kim Davis exhibited the courage, character and biblical values of Rosa Parks and Bree Newsome. Newsome took down the racist Confederate flag in South Carolina. All three ladies paid a sacrifice for standing up for the values and faith of the Lord Jesus. Kim Davis is being asked to deny her faith in order to maintain her job. No one in America should be asked to do that. I applaud and appreciate Kim Davis with every fiber of my being. Indeed, her stand is analogous to Rosa Parks’ stand.
In Oregon, the shooter asked, “Are you a Christian?” Is “Christian” the correct word to label Christ’s followers? The word “Christian” is found only three times in Scripture: Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16.
In Acts 11:26c, “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” [Underlines mine]. The disciples were “called” Christians by the people who lived in Antioch. Antioch was largely a Gentile city. One of the meanings of the world “Gentile” is “people without God.” The disciples were called Christians by people without God in Antioch.
In Acts 26:28, Luke records, “Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian.’” Who was Agrippa? He was a Gentile king and a non-believer. Paul said to Agrippa, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become…such as I am, except for these chains” (Acts 26:29). Paul did not call himself a “Christian” here. It was a pagan king who invoked the term “Christian.”
In 1 Peter 4:16, Peter recorded, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.’’ The language used in official indictments against believers, referenced the believer as a “Christian.” Peter lifted this term (“Christian”) from the indictment papers. Peter referred to believers as a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people…the people of God…” (1 Peter 2:9-10). The word “Christian” originated with pagans, who used that term as a term of derision and disdain toward authentic followers of Christ.
What words were used to describe Christ’s followers in the Bible? The primary word used to describe Christ’s followers was “disciple”: Isaiah 8:16, Matthew 13:51-52, Matthew 28:19-20. Believers were also called “saints” (Romans 1:7). Christ’s followers were also known as:
- “members of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10)
- “fellow citizens with the saints” (Ephesians 2:19)
- “members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19)
- “citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20)
- “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
- “brother in the kingdom of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:9)
- “people of the way” (Acts 9:1-2)
Major Point: neither Jesus nor the biblical writers called Christ’s followers—“Christians.” Jesus did not say “go make Christians.” He said “go make disciples.” Disciples are referenced over 200 times in Scripture; “Christians” only three times. Even if one views the 1 Peter 4:16 reference as affirming the word “Christian,” the preponderance of evidence still weighs heavier toward our identity being that of a disciple. The Oregon gunman may have shot no matter how one answered the question; so that is not my point here. My point is, the Bible does not teach that followers of Christ were to be labeled “Christian”; so, why should one feel obligated to answer a demon-filled maniac who ask you to identify yourself in a way the Bible never affirms such a moniker for believers.
How should a believer or follower of Christ have responded to the Oregon shooter?
- There was no biblical obligation to answer his question.
- The Bible says that the Holy Spirit will direct you in that hour as to what to say. One would have to trust the Holy Spirit to give him or her exactly what to say at that hour.
- From a biblical point of view, a believer could have responded with any of the above biblical answers if you so choose.
- In no way, shape, form or fashion would I have denied Christ.
- If I chose to answer the Oregon gunman, I might have answered, “I am a disciple of the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 13:51-52). “I am a disciple of Christ”; “I am a brother in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.”
I would not have answered, “I am a Christian,” because I really don’t know how the gunman defined “Christian.” Mormons, Ku Klux Klan and Louis Farrakhan all call themselves “Christians.” I certainly share none of their belief systems or Christology. Again, not knowing what the Oregon gunman meant by “Are you a Christian,” I would have had to rely totally on the Holy Spirit to know whether or not to answer or what answer to give. After all, Jesus said the Spirit would provide us with the answer in the hour that we need it (Mark 13:11).