Being a Copt, it is not so unusual to hear the term “Nazarene” or “Nasara” or “Nasrani”. This is not to be confused with the fourth century Christian sect told by St. Epiphanius, or some of the present-day Protestant groups that call themselves “Nazarenes” (there seems to be one Swiss Baptist group for example that calls itself “Nazarene”). Even before the fourth century Christian sect, the term “Nazarene” was employed to describe the Christians, more specifically the Jews who believed in Christ, on the basis that they believe in the Jesus from Nazareth.
Today this term is employed mostly on Middle Eastern Christians, and Christians influenced by the Middle East (such as the ancient Christians of Kerala, India who derive their traditions from the Syriac traditions). Therefore, it is not so much uncommon to hear this term used, and it is used quite pridefully on one end by the Middle Eastern Christians, and pejoratively on the other end by non-Christian oppressors, and this is the important part. While it is an “N” word for all intents and purposes of insult, it is not reacted as such by the Christians, but we take the title with pride. We do not insist upon the correct translation of Christian in Arabic (“Messehiyeen”), but we will happily take the markings of insult and shame as part of our identity with Christ. And we do have a history of boasting in things that culturally was shameful to boast about (Galatians 6:14).
So when you see terrorists like ISIS marking my brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers in Iraq and Syria with the Arabic letter “nūn” to indicate that this is a home that has a Christian, aka “Nasrani” in it, we carry this “nūn” on our hearts and minds, courageously, with our heads held up high. For even when they made my brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers walk barefoot in the wilderness with no food or extra clothing or money or any monetary item, they still walked in the Spirit, and they consecrated the letter “nūn” for all Arab Christians to show forth. “You filthy NASRANA!” they may say. We reply, “I am a Nasrani, and a fool for Christ my Lord, who makes the weak stronger than your brute.”
Today, all of Mosul’s Nasranis have become martyrs, which is the highest spiritual honor in Christ. Today, all of the world’s Christians carry with them as witnesses with solidarity to the brave and kind Nasranis, who do not return the ejection with putrid violence as others have brazenly been doing (you hear of no suicide bombs or fighting in the name of Christ among them), you must really be in awe in what has been an insult became a moment to relish and be proud.
YES! I AM A NASRANI, BAPTIZED A NASRANI, AND WILL ALWAYS BE A NASRANI! So help me the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, our God is one! Amen!