There are a lot of labels we slap on each other in the church. I’ll admit, I’ve never considered myself a liberal. I used to think I was a conservative until a conservative told me I wasn’t one. He said instead that I was an evangelical. I thought all Christians were supposed to be evangelical (Isn’t that what the Great Commission is all about?) When I heard my denomination had started a progressive group, I was excited. I’ve spent my whole ministry trying to create new ways to share the unchanging message of the Gospel. Isn’t that what progressive means? Evidently not. Just another way to advance a political agenda and I’m not much for politics anymore. We call ourselves pacifists, but for pacifists, we sure fight a lot and the countryside is littered with our denominational splits and while I love the people in my denomination (all of them because God said I had to and Jesus prayed that I would), there’s part of me that wonders if a denomination is just another label.
I mean I remember driving with a friend talking about God and the church, and when I told him my denomination, he said, “Oh, you guys are real liberal.” I thought about my little church in the corn field in Pennsylvania and thought, “How could he say that? We make Rush Limbaugh look like a liberal (or at least a moderate.) That’s the thing about labels, one size doesn’t fit all. The Bible speaks of speaking the truth in love but when we begin to separate behind labels it becomes either or, some having a problem with truth, others having a problem with love. A label is a litmus test. It stops being about Jesus and starts being about passing your groups litmus test. If you don’t believe me look at our government and ask yourself are they making their decisions based on what’s best for the people or the party. The party is the label and their decisions are how they pass the litmus test. Our Christian “labels” do the same thing. They divide what Jesus came to unite. When He prayed that we might be one as He and the Father are one, He meant you and me. I want better than division and dispute for my life, how about you?
I decided a long time ago that I reject all labels and the only litmus test I care about is the one given by the only one who won’t reject me when I fail to pass it. He told me to love everyone, even my enemies (if I had any, which I really don’t, largely because I really try to love everybody), stop being selfish, take up my cross DAILY and follow Him. We need to throw away our labels and pick up our Bibles. We need to forget our litmus tests and start following the doctrine set up for us by the Word of God. Should we leave the church? No, the Bible FORBIDS that. Do we dump our denominations? I don’t know if that’s necessary either. There are different denominations for the same reason there are different flavors of ice cream. Different people respond to different things and are reached by different things and God wants everyone to be reached by His love and the truth of the Gospel.(Speaking the truth in love, remember?)
What we must do is come together around the Word of God and in prayer and bring the church back into obedience to God and we have to start loving each other and the people in the world around us. I don’t have to agree with you to love you. I can disagree with you vehemently and still love you and you can fail my unintentional litmus tests (none of us should have them but we all do) and I will still love you. That’s what it means to follow the One who sacrificed Himself for the people who killed Him. I have many titles that tell you who I am, husband, father, man, pastor, speaker, artist employee, etc. and I’m okay with that but I reject all labels but one…