Peter wrote his first epistle to a Christian population that was suffering the pangs of persecution throughout the Roman Empire. God’s children had fallen on hard times, suffering especially from their Jewish kinfolk who rejected Jesus and despised anyone who would dare to profess Jesus as the Son of God. In order to encourage these tormented souls, Peter said, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter (or “name” ASV)” (1 Peter 4:16). I suppose what is so interesting about this verse is what it does NOT say.
With the incredible diversity in religious beliefs and the multitude of faiths (Ephesians 4:5), it is a fact that Christianity, as the world sees it, does not present itself as a unified religion. Some sources believe that there are some 30- to 40-thousand different “Christian” religions existent today. This is a far cry from the unity for which Jesus prayed in the Garden, “that they all may be one, as You Father are in Me, and I in You” (John 17:21).
So, what does this verse NOT say? It does not say that suffering as a (fill in your religious name here) is something of which one should be proud (1 Corinthians 1:31). In fact, if you wear any other religious name but Christian, you should be ashamed. Further, it does not say that we have the right or privilege to glorify God wearing the name (fill in your religious name here). Yet, we see in our fair city religious names so numerous as to take up whole sections of the yellow pages in our phone book. When asked what religion some people claim, or at what church some people worship, we hear that they are (fill in your religious name here).
Do you really want to be a (fill in your religious name here)? Shouldn’t we all be just Christians (Acts 11:26). How is that a bad thing? When a child of God attempts to dismiss human names and glorify the Christ in the name they wear, why does it cause such animosity among those who choose names not found in God’s Word (cf. Acts 26:28)? If Jesus is to be believed, He would have all of His followers to be unified. What a massive step toward unification if all who claim to follow Christ were to discard all the human, non-biblical names and just be called by the name of our King! Wouldn’t it be nice if we all were just Christians and not (fill in your religious name here)?