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18 Christians Share What ‘Christian’ Means to Them: Is #12 Right?

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“Christian”—It’s a term as a society we’re more than familiar with. However, what we don’t consider is how different our impressions to the word itself actually are. Here are responses from 18 Christians.


Merriam Webster defines Christian as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.” It’s a standard, popular term, with a standard widely understood definition. With 240 million Christians in the United States and 2.3 billion worldwide it’s no shock that the term is widely recognized. However, how often do we consider how different our personal impressions of the word are?

I first confronted the separation during my freshman year at university. Up until then, I had a solely positive association with the word—only accompanied with familiarity and warmth. A dear friend of mine and fellow believer stopped me one day in a casual conversation about life. She calmly admitted, “You know, I don’t think I want to be called a Christian anymore. I’d rather be known as a Jesus follower—there’s too much pain wrapped up in the word.” Just like that, my perspective was thrown. The way in which I found myself embracing the term, and her rejecting it spoke directly into our experiences.

There’s so much we can learn in these little type of responses. I’m far more interested in people’s response to the personhood of Christianity rather than the belief system.

This concept has prompted me to ask 18 Christians the questions:

  • What are your immediate feelings, thoughts and impressions of the word “Christian?”
  • What does “Christian” mean to you?

1. Vendela, 24-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: Love, God, Faith.”
  • “Christian” means to me… “Christian to me means a relationship with God, our Creator through Christ. Christian to me means compassion and a heart for people…. It means community, the body of Christ; people from all over, with pain in their hearts that come together in unity and bond over their sufferings and find healing and favor by God’s hand in their life.”

2. Greg, 61-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: “Faith. Hope. For me, it’s positive…believing in Christ.” 
  • “Christian” means to me… : “It’s a way of life. The way I was raised and brought up. It sets a standard for the way you live your life…People might disagree but it elicits you to do the right thing…without that foundation, a  lot of decisions I made would be different.”

3. Matthew, 29-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: I feel comfortable, I feel understood. Friendship.”
  • “Christian” means to me… It’s a mix between friendship and living how Jesus lived. Connecting well with everyone because that’s how Jesus would do it.”

4. Mark, 36-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”:The feeling is tension….hopeful tension. There’s tension between my flesh and spirit—this world and eternity.”
  • “Christian” means to me… Christian is connected to what we know in our culture—it becomes a varying experience of these. Christian looks different for a lot of people….. What it means to me; Israel (Jacob)—someone who wrestled with God. I know enough to know I recognize I need to follow God yet I know there’s a lot of wrestling to do and that I’ve gone through. I have more questions and new ones. I don’t have all the answers but I think I know enough to keep walking in faith.”

5. Bruce, 63-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: Order. Comfort. Reverence.”
  • “Christian” means to me…It gives me comfort. There’s a promise in that word—the promise is everlasting life. This world is definitely temporal and I know it’s going to end. All of my belongings are for naught because I’m going to be in a different realm for eternity. That’s amazing. I can see joy, great joy because of that same promise.”

6. Tukiya, 28-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: “Rollercoaster of emotions!”
  • “Christian” means to me…To me, it’s the hardest but most rewarding journey I’ve ever been on. It means going against what society calls ‘the norm’ and going up when everyone seems to be going down. It’s a never-ending discovery of not only God but myself as well.”

7. Mike, 30-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”:I immediately think “family.’”
  • “Christian” means to me… “When I hear the word, ‘Christian’—it’s a better word then being called a gentile, if you’re not a Jew you’re unclean. It means I’m saved and sealed for Christ’s return, a follower of Christ. That’s what it means to me.

8. Emma, 25-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: Fake, perfectionism, untrustworthy.”
  • “Christian” means to me…The word Christian has come to almost be offensive to a lot of people in my life. So much so that I cannot even approach people identifying myself as Christian because I know I risk losing their trust completely. It’s unfortunate… I do not deny Christ I just have to pose it differently. I usually say I’m on a spiritual journey or walk with God. Being a Christian is something I take very seriously. Christian means “little Christ”…it means we are trying to be like Jesus. I will not be held to the expectation of Jesus because I’m not Him. I’m trying to be LIKE him. That’s why TRANSPARENCY is the most important key to me in my Christian walk. Christians do not have the answers but we know where to find it. We need to always be pointing people back to Christ. It’s hard to constantly speak openly about our faults. But the more we try to make it ‘seem’ like we have it all together, the more harm we do. We aren’t fooling the non-Christians and we’re only leading other Christians to believe in a level of Christianity that is not real.

9. Miza, 24-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”:Feelings of curiosity and intrigue.”
  • “Christian” means to me… “To me, it means being in a relationship with God who is so full of unending grace and unconditional love. It also means living life here on earth as Jesus would and extending that grace and love to every single person I meet”

10. Billy, 44-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: “Jesus. Hope. Salvation.”
  • “Christian” means… “Christian means living a life that expresses forgivingness born out in the death of Christ.”

11. Rob, 27-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”:Identity. Belonging. Follower.”
  • “Christian” means to me… “Christian to me means follower of Christ. Someone who identifies with the name of Jesus. Someone who accepts His Lordship as Christ. Someone who is set apart from the world around them because of their belonging to Christ.”

12. Kelsey, 27-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”:Hot-button political term.”
  • “Christian” means to me… “Christian to me means a follower of Christ, emulating Christ to the best of their ability acting in love above all else. Unfortunately, Christianity is used as a political pawn and I honestly feel it’s being irreparably tarnished by bigoted, racist and sexist individuals.”

13. Denise, 55-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: Gratitude, love and trust.”
  • “Christian” means to me… the ability to live in a chaotic hopeless world filled with hope. It means being loved in a way that is so complete and so at times unfathomable and yet so true how could I deny it? Being a Christian means I am no longer living for myself, Christ in me, allows me to look outside myself and see the needs of people who are in my circle of influence and then see what can be done about meeting those needs.”

14. Adie, 40-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: “It’s not good. I think both being judgmental and being judged to a high standard. I think misunderstood on both sides…Christians are misunderstood and I think many are a little confused.”
  • The term “Christian” means… “I think the efforts of well-meaning Christians get drowned out by the negative. I have a lot of non-Christian friends and what they’ve suffered at the hands of Christians is really disappointing….I didn’t grow up in the church, my family was not Christian—I discovered on my own. Maybe if I was steeped in a Christian world at a young age I would only [associate] words like ‘love, hope’ etc. but I’ve had my feet in both worlds. And the people I want to protect are the ones getting the short end of the stick—the people looking in, curious and just want to see what’s behind the curtain. It just takes one person to prove them right in their stereotype or judgement of Christians….That’s what we’ve been charged with—to bridge the gap. If I think of my own community it flips this bipolar view. These people are the most life-giving that walk the earth.  People that love like no other, love like Jesus—it’s truly something that we take full charge in our lives and that is beautiful. If we can be the hands and feet of Jesus. My walk on earth is to tell the truth of who God is, even the hard stuff. God is my father…He is my life, He directs me, guides me in intimate ways that can’t be compared to anything else because it’s supernatural.”

15. Gabrielle, 27-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: Love, joy, peaceful.”
  • “Christian” means to me… “Christian means freedom and unconditional love to me. It means that I’m not perfect and I’m never going to be perfect—and that’s ok! It means that I let go of control, give God the wheel to my life and try my hardest to stay obedient and aligned with His Word in order for Him to use me for His greater purpose….It means that the purpose of life is not conventional success (money, husband, traveling, career), but rather pleasing the Lord and focusing on eternity and helping as many people unravel the Good News as I can.”

16. Carol, 55-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: “Connection. I automatically feel we have like-minds and hearts. If you say you’re a Christian, you’re saying I’m your brother or sister.”
  • “Christian” means to me…“Followers of Christ. We are about the great commission—to spread the good news.”

17. Sarah, 27-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: Hopeful, thankful, convicted.”
  • “Christian” means to me…A lot of people claim the title Christian when discussing how they were raised to spend their Sundays, but being a Christian is about genuinely loving, giving, caring and having a real relationship with God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We, as Christians, are hopeful for the future, thankful for our blessings and the possibility of a relationship with God, and convicted in what we believe to be the Truth. This conviction, if used correctly, helps guide us in making the right decisions daily and can help us keep perspective.”

18. Emilie, 27-years-old

  • Impressions of “Christian”: “Family, identity, love.”
  • “Christian” means to me… Christian means a person who identifies Christ, Jesus as their savior. Someone who’s faith influences their daily life and decisions. Christian means that you act differently, you’re acts should be able to show your faith”