Sour Kraut


From: Bill Steidtmann

When I was growing up I was very abnormal. I didn't like brats with sauerkraut. It's a puzzler. Eventually I came to my senses and realized the wonder of taking a perfectly normal piece of pork and creating absolute culinary confusion. It all makes sense now, but then life gets dull as we get older, hence the need to violate the boredom. Aside from my initial repugnance of a pork sandwich the way the motherland intended, I'm mostly of German heritage. Check my name - that's long i, silent d, and two n's. The second n is silent. Very tricky. Don't even try to pronounce it without a beer stein in your hand. Yes, I admit, I'm a Kraut.

In spite of how much fun I'm having calling myself a "kraut", as a term meaning "a German" the word was not historically meant to be fun. Ever since about World War I it was meant to be derogatory. Thus, as a general rule, people who are Germans, or are of German descent, tend not to use the term when they refer to themselves. This only seems reasonable. Pick any nationality, minority, or subclass and chances are their enemies have thought up some derogatory name for them. Which brings me to that boat rocking moment that you knew was coming: Why do Christians call themselves Christians?

Good question. It might come as a rather startling revelation that in the Bible the word "Christian" only occurs 3 times. You would think that this word would be all up and down and sideways in the Bible, but it's not. With a 138,000 give-or-take (Greek) word count in the New Testament that seems a little sparse. Let's take a look at each one:

"Acts 11:26b (KJV) "...And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch."

Notice that it does not say "called themselves Christians". The question is: Who called them that? And having been labeled as such, will they begin using that word? Paul himself, after having written 14 epistles in the Bible, never uses the term. He may say "faithful brethren in Christ", or "sister", or "saints", or "believers", or "the elect of God", but never "Christians". It is simply not Biblical for believers to call themselves that, even if others do:

"Acts 26:28 (KJV) "Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."

Here an admitted unbeliever, in a sort of semi-sarcastic, dare I say, derogatory manner uses the label. Paul responds that he wishes that Agrippa and those who heard him were "such as I am", but does not use the term. And here is the last of the three occurrences:

" Peter 4:16 (KJV) "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf."

Why would Peter associate the term "Christian" with suffering? Is it possible that in Peter's mind, persecutors would tend to use that word? No doubt. And even Peter does not use the word in the opening address of his letter, preferring the word "elect".

So, here's the question that I struggle with: Am I a Christian? That's getting more and more difficult for me to answer with each passing day. Just what exactly a Christian is seems to be largely in the eyes of the beholder, and after hundreds of years of Christian chaos, it carries a lot of baggage I would prefer not to be associated with. From a Biblical point of view, it is a term to be avoided, and yet a term to be expected. I seriously have to ask why I would ever call myself one, yet I do it all the time because it's convenient. So if you do ask me if I'm a Christian, at least you'll understand if that sour look shows up on my face when I try to answer.


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