Over the weekend, I learned the origin of the word “stereotypical.”
We often speak of “stereotypical men” – guys who seem do what we have seen guys do for years and years and years. We think of stereotypes as things that fit a certain mold or category, which repeat themselves over and over. We’re not that far off.
The word is derived from two Greek words: stereos=firm, solid and typos=impression. A stereotype is a “solid impression,” a really good copy.
Original usage comes from printing (as you might imagine) and actually refers to the copy of an original (a prototype). Apparently, in the printing world, it is the stereotype, not the prototype, that was used to make all the subsequent copies. I suppose that one could refer to all the copies as “stereotypes,” but we know that as one makes copies the quality degrades. There is usually only one stereotype.
This got me thinking about the fact that the earliest Christians were named such, not by themselves, but by others. The name “Little Christs” was not how they referred to themselves, but we find in Acts 11 that it was others who called them that. When people saw Jesus’ followers, they resembled their teacher so much, that they started referring to them as Christians. And it wasn’t a good thing either. Apparently, they were loving as Jesus had commanded them to and they were screwing up the system that certain powerful people had carefully arranged.
Servanthood always screws things up. People who should not be valued are highly valued. People who are left out are invited in. If you “forget” to invite my sister to dinner, then I’m going to go pick her up and bring to her as my +1 whether you want us there or not. Guess who’s coming to dinner, indeed.
It’s hard for me to remember sometimes, but the life and ministry of Jesus got him killed. He was killed for loving the unlovable and challenging the assumptions of those who control the system of “welcome.” So when I ask myself if I’m the “stereotypical Christian” I have wonder if I’m actually a “solid impression” of Jesus Christ or not.