We love to use them don't we. We see them all around us. The culture we live in is filled with them.
We love to label ourselves too.
We especially love to give ourselves the labels which are popular, which are cool, which are the 'in' labels at the time.
As Christians we use labels all the time.
Which type of church?
Which type of Christian?
It kinda frustrates me. Today we use phrases like 'Deep Church' and 'Emerging Church', or 'fundamentalist' or 'pentecostal'. There are so many labels around us. Its easy to put a label on ourselves, its often easier. If we label ourselves, then we know what we believe (or are supposed to) and it makes us feel a bit more comfortable. We think we have the final answer, that the 'label' we have chosen is the right one.
Until another one comes along we like more.
Now please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember Jesus using any of these labels.
The only name He gave Himself was the Son of Man. He talked about the Kingdom of God and taught us how to bring it to the world and about how to live as God wanted.
I don't remember the phrase 'Christian' ever being used by Jesus. Or any other label for that matter.
The problem with labels is that they are restrictive. They bind you to a certain perspective, a certain set of values and beliefs about God and the Bible, which means that you end up either being 'in' if you believe them or 'out' if you don't. It sounds like an exclusive club, with strict rules and regulations.
They are like a box, with a big sticker on the front saying what's inside. And everyone in that box will all be in agreement and you will know exactly what say about every topic around. You will know exactly what to expect from everyone and everything in that box.
To be honest, that sounds the dullest most boring and un-interesting thing I can think of.
Not only that, but I don't think its anything like what Jesus had in mind.The other problem with the box idea is that it can also lead to people acting in a way that isn't Christ-like, who don't fit the standards or values ascribed to that label, or don't fit in the box. It can drive people away from church, and people start being condemned or called heretics just because they disagree on one dimension of faith.
There's no freedom in labels. None. There might be some security, but when did God ever want us to be complacent and stay in security?
God wants us to explore.
God wants us to ask questions.
God wants us to grow.
God wants us to be challenged.
God wants us to be uncomfortable sometimes.
God asks us to live outside the box
Jesus wasn't interested in labels. He lived outside the box. He was interested in setting people free to explore and discover more about God, to question what they believe and why they believe it, to go on adventures in faith - not just physically, but theologically. He was interested in us living a life according to Kingdom values, however that looks (which will be different wherever you are, whatever culture, time and location you're living in).
If you disagree, fine. No problem. There's room for that.
As long as we love each other, and we're each pursuing a relationship with Jesus and trying to grow in a deeper knowledge and understanding of Him, as long as we both believe in the crucified and resurrected Christ, then there's no problem disagreeing.
Maybe what's important isn't the label we give ourselves.
In fact I think God doesn't want us to use labels for ourselves. Maybe even the term 'Christian' is restrictive.
The most important thing ultimately is that we are making God the centre of our lives. That we are orientating our lives around the values of Jesus and trying to live out our faith wherever and whenever we are, and grow in relationship with Him and trying to discover more about Him and how to bring His Kingdom to wherever we are.
That's more important than any title or label we give ourselves.
If we get into a discussion, we can say instead that we're trying to follow the way of Jesus and live according to His values. That we see church as part of that, but that its so much more than that. Then lets talk about those values and how they interpret in our daily lives.
That sounds so much more appealing than any religion. Or any label. Or any box.