Why Christians love labels, and why we shouldn’t.

A few days ago I tweeted this.

Is it time to stop using term “Christians” so loosely esp. when it is used to imply that all Christians hold same stance e.g. on gay rights?

We love to give each other labels as it helps us know where we stand with each other. I know whether I can trust you when I ask if you support Rangers or Celtic. We know where you will stand on gay rights if you recognize yourself as an Evangelical.

Except more and more there is a growing attitude that how you label yourself isn’t as important as it once was. I can say I am a Christian and believe homosexuality is not a  sin. Someone else can say they are a Christian and believe it is. Image

This will then lead to two different opinions on things like equal rights and marriage. Vastly opposing directions, same label.

I’ve always been struck by how many different denominations there are. I’m not a world religion expert by any means but I wonder if other religions have as many denominations.

You can be a Christian and be Protestant, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist (which can mean vastly different things depending on whether you live in the US or UK), Pentecostal, Greek Orthodox, Brethren, Anabaptist, Messianic Judaism, Swedenborgianism (yeah I don’t know either), Universalist etc. etc.

When I was younger I always wondered why there were so many and why it mattered as I was pretty sure there wouldn’t be different churches in Heaven. Now as I have grown, my ideas of God have changed. My theology has changed greatly from when I first become a Christian to the place I find myself now. Some would even go as far as saying I’m not a Christian anymore because of my beliefs. Even so, it is clear that among all the Christians in the world, there are hundreds of different ideas on issues and even though I don’t think about Heaven in the same way I did a few years ago, I am pretty sure there won’t be hundreds of different denominations in the New Heavens and New Earth.

When we give something a label, we can become very defensive when something about our label is questioned. It’s like the label has become more important than the ideas that the label is supposed to point towards.

I’m not calling for an end to all our denominations and to come under the one roof, except that, in a way I am.

Why can’t we hold our own denominations, while at the same time recognizing that we are all one part of the world wide catholic church?

Why can’t we start learning from each other and respecting that we can all be followers of Christ and still be part of the same family. I mean do you agree with everyone in your family? Maybe, maybe not, but I hope either way it doesn’t mean you consider your brother any less your brother because you disagree.

As Christians we should keep in mind that “we’ve all fallen short”. This means we’re on a playing field and when we start to assert exclusively that our ideas or politics are Jesus’ way, then we have missed the core of Jesus’s teaching. When we think that God is for Ulster or the USA or for whatever side you were simply “fortunate” enough to be born into, we’ve fallen short more than we know.

So I hold the belief that homosexuality is not a sin but I am still ready to share a meal, to pray with and to share life with someone who believes different.

Why?

Because I can learn from them too. Because I will never have it all figured out. (And where would be the fun if we could?) Because their beliefs don’t for me determine their worth. Because the greatest commandment is to love God and to love others.

As far as I can tell there are no stipulations to love.

Because when there are it ceases to be love and becomes control.

Perhaps our labels contribute more to control than love. Perhaps it’s time for a rethink.

I just haven’t thought of a name for it yet.

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2 thoughts on “Why Christians love labels, and why we shouldn’t.

  1. Preach it, brother. Jesus preached love. Paul (the apostle, that is) preached unity. We need to learn from the best and follow suit. Jesus personally anointed Paul, and said others would know we were his followers by showing love to one another.

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