Why I don’t like labels

Accept-RejectWe like to categorize and put labels on things. This isn’t bad, per se. Categorizing can help us make sense of things. But when we do so to dismiss or even demonize our brethren in Christ, that’s quite another thing.

Since the Reformation, we’ve had the Protestants demonizing Catholics and vice versa, Cessationist who believe that the gifts of the Spirit ceased with the apostles going polemic on the Charismatics and Pentecostals who believe they’re still relevant, knee-jerk vilification from many Charismatics and Pentecostals against the so-called “Hyper-Grace” preachers, and then some of these same grace preachers rejecting the Inclusionists, who rebut the Universalists…and on it goes.

I’m not saying that there isn’t error in some or even all of these doctrinal positions. But what if we weren’t so fragile in our confidence in who we are in Christ and actually stopped labeling our brothers and sisters in Christ?

What if all doctrinal positions had something valuable to teach us?

What if we weren’t so afraid of hearing from these people who love Jesus that we actually grew in our understanding of what an awesome God we all worship?

What if we acted like we haven’t arrived at perfect knowledge of all things and humbly received from anyone who has an honestly held Christian position?

What if this both balanced us and empowered us with passion in the love of God more than we could ever experience in our fear of being wrong?

Oswald Chambers was right. It does takes God a long time to get us to stop thinking that unless everyone sees things exactly as we do, they must be wrong.

711px-Witch-scene4What if we stopped nitpicking at each other with our inquisitional microscopes and actually learned to love one another, despite our differences and, instead, saw each other through the telescope of our destiny and purpose in Christ? (2 Cor.5:16-17)

Jesus said the way the world would know us by our love for one another, not by our doctrinal agreement (John 13:35; 17:23). Why, then, is love for one another so minimized?

This is not an insignificant question. For love is everything, without it we’re nothing, no matter how right we think we are (1 Cor.13:1-3).

Paul said that being divisive and arguing over who’s right and who’s wrong is acting like the world, not like Christ. It actually shows that we’re not spiritual at all (1 Cor.3:3).

I think it’s pretty clear what we should be focusing on, don’t you?

Because while we’re busy tearing at each other over non-central doctrines, the world God so loved continues to view the church with astonishment and derision. And rightfully so.

This is not the gospel’s fault; it’s our fault.

We’re not following Jesus’ commandment to love one another as He loves us, we’re following our own doctrinal gods in the name of defending truth (which means, our interpretation of the truth).

I get mostly positive responses from my readers when I bring this up, but a few get a little testy, like when I brought up Pope Francis and talked about the unity of the faith. This unity, by the way, is the ultimate goal of our spiritual maturity in Christ (See Eph.4:13).

Again, I’m not saying we can’t disagree but we should probably stop calling everyone we do disagree with heretics and false teachers with such impunity.

I’m also not talking about accepting any view, but the very diverse, honestly held positions of those who love Jesus and believe in salvation by grace through faith. And most people in all of the aforementioned groups do.

The grievous wolves and false teachers Paul was fighting were not like our particular doctrinal bickerings but against teachers who either didn’t believe that Jesus was real (Gnostics) or that He wasn’t enough to save you (Judaizers).

Furthermore, John said the antichrist is someone who denies that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22). As far as I’m aware, none of these positions mentioned are in this category.

This is why the early Church came up with the Nicene Creed. It was with the purpose of having a common Christian confession of the essential tenets of the faith, so that we could have “in non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love” (Augustine – 354-430 AD).

Maybe, we should remember this again and be about our Father’s business. Just a thought.

Nicene Creed

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],
who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic [universal] and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

NOTE: brackets added in Nicene Creed for clarification
PHOTO 1: Photo graphic (modified) from www.freeimages.com
PHOTO 2: The burning of a 16th-century Dutch Anabaptist, Anneken Hendriks, who was charged by the Spanish Inquisition with heresy (Wikipedia)
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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 37 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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14 Responses to Why I don’t like labels

  1. Kathee says:

    I so agree with you! I can’t tell you how many times I am happily listening to someone talking about something inspired and thought provoking and then they start bashing my particular denomination. Is this supposed to bring us closer?? Supposed to make me quit my church?? Convince me to be ashamed?? The only thing it brings immediately to my mind is that the speaker does not have confidence in his own choices and therefore, he has to put down mine. Interestingly, I just said this to someone yesterday about politics. Anyone who does not believe the way you believe is the fool, negating all the intelligent people and fools on all sides of every issue! We need more of what you are talking about today.

    • Mel Wild says:

      I know what you’re talking about. I have had the same experience…someone with a great message then they go off on a tangent, especially, when it’s political. A lot of it’s fear-based. It would be much better if we actually listened to each other and found out what we have in common instead of what we’re against.
      We have a lot of growing up to do. 🙂
      Thanks for your comments. Blessings to you.

  2. bullroarin says:

    A good word Mel. Guess we can’t see the forest for the trees.

    Just yesterday I happened upon an evangelical website where so many “Christians” were calling people idiots and morons with regard to a newspaper article about President Obama’s speech at a Christian prayer breakfast and his stance about religion in general. Jesus said to pray for those in authority, and to pray for our enemies. Whatever happened to our obligation as Christians to love our enemies? When I tried to raise a question about such behaviour I couldn’t post it unless I became a member, ha!

    Personally I think that whatever (spiritually speaking) is inside us is going to come out when we get squeezed by the pressures of the world around us. Its been there all along, hidden perhaps, but now we are starting to see what we couldn’t see before…and some of it isn’t so good.

    Just some thoughts. ~ Dave

    • Mel Wild says:

      “Personally I think that whatever (spiritually speaking) is inside us is going to come out when we get squeezed by the pressures of the world around us.”
      You said it there, brother! Amen.

      You know, there were basically two denominations (East and West), if you will, until the Reformation. Since then, there’s been over 33,000! I guess we’re still protesting. Not that diversity is bad, but it was usually division over doctrinal differences, and sometimes it got bloody. We are a dysfunctional bunch! This is why statements like the Nicene Creed might help us decide what’s important and what’s not worth arguing and dividing over.

      But I do have hope. I see the lines dissolving more and more. I think it’s God’s intent to mature us as sons, leaving our divisive orphan mindset, seeing that we’re all part of the same family in heaven and on earth. Then, instead of trying to make everyone us, we can appreciate our diversity.

      Some good thoughts, Dave. Thanks for chiming in. Blessings.

  3. Lance says:

    Mel,
    Great post. I really believe this revival we are in now has “removing judgment” as a cornerstone. When we are free from the poisoned fallen fruit juice, free from the divisive self-motivated power of the knowledge of good and evil, we can replace it with Love as Jesus intended. Religion (in a bad sense) is very much exclusive in nature. Jesus was inclusive. Our relationship with Him is our focus, our inclusion. If I’m living in judgment (especially hateful rejection) how can I have Jesus in the center? So amen brother and more more more of Him! Yay God!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks. Yes, let’s get free from the fallen fruit juice and eat from the right tree! I think John said if we hate our brother we don’t know God. That’s something to ponder. And I agree about the current revival. Actually, we’re learning how to live a revival lifestyle as sons and daughters of a good, good Father. We find each other in His embrace. 🙂 Blessings.

  4. Yes, Mel it does irk me to see and hear the sectarian wrangling… after all, we are in the same family. If we believe in the basic tenets of faith, then we must strive to conform to Eph 4:3-6

    3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

    This isn’t just a suggestion… it appears in a rather clear directive. And it implies that it will require some “effort” to do it. Bottom-line if the person is ‘in the family’ we must do what it takes to maintain the unity of the Spirit…. ( I write about this extensively in ‘The Dangers of Hard-line Eschatology’ – http://wp.me/p23r7p-aS )

    But I suppose anytime we write publicly that makes us a target.

    I appreciate your tact and astuteness at handling cross-current opinions expressed on your blog. Good job!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Mark. Yeah, you know, Jesus and Paul weren’t very vague about this, were they. There aren’t doctrinal divisions in heaven, no denominations, no sects at all. We can be in unity without having to agree on everything doctrinally. Your post on eschatology was very good. That doctrinal area has been a real minefield, creating all kinds of damage and so much fear. All I know for sure is, Love wins! 🙂

  5. paulfg says:

    “But what if we weren’t so fragile in our confidence in who we are in Christ and actually stopped labeling our brothers and sisters in Christ?”

    Fear is (almost) as powerful as love. And we all know what He said about serving two masters …

    • Mel Wild says:

      Amen. Unfortunately, fear is behind a lot of religious division, manipulation and control: fear of loss of power, fear of false teachers, fear of being wrong, etc. I love the Jonathan & Melissa Helser song, “No longer slaves” for this reason. We are God’s sons and daughters in our Father’s embrace, and when we actually know this in our hearts, we’re no longer slaves to fear. His perfect love is the answer!

  6. Amen, Mel. Love casts out fear. If only those who lived from fear had eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that would allow them to receive His grace. I don’t think we can extend love, grace and acceptance until we allow ourselves to fully receive the love, grace and acceptance Jesus has for us. Only when we understand it is overflowing and never ending can we begin to give it away. That is what will lead to the unity you have described.

    • Mel Wild says:

      That’s absolutely right, Susan. We must receive love first. Most all Christians know that they are to love God and others, but seemingly few know experientially how loved by God they really are. And when we open our heart to this overflow of unconditional love from God, true love and understanding for others will flow out from us. And like you said, until we get this one thing, we will always be trying to fulfill our agenda instead of God’s, and His is becoming like Jesus in the unity of the faith (Eph.4:13). Blessings.

  7. gahigi says:

    Hey Mel,

    I’m thinking of one group that I believe denies Christ because to them he’s ONLY a good man or a good teacher or a good model. I know what they teach as “New Thought Ancient Wisdom” and course there’s many more. At least you didn’t mention them but I think because they believe God is good they’ve seen miracles. I even heard one story from a pastor that this guy was blind and was healed. And when I started to hear the gospel it reminded me of this group because now I was really starting to believe God is good. I loved what I knew before then but it was a “mixed grace gospel” and it was like we couldn’t “compete” for lack of a better word. However after hearing some pure undiluted grace I started to believe some major stuff could happen kinda like how you preached when Jesus said “the Son of man IS in heaven”. Not sure where I’m going with this but I need help. I guess they just need to see the love of God especially between all of us who love Jesus. Sorry if I’m rambling and if I brought this up before; it just bothers me. Good post.
    Peace

    • Mel Wild says:

      No problem with the ramble. 🙂 The group you are talking about is where confessions of faith like the Nicene Creed are helpful. And these arguments about who Christ is were very relevant during the time that was written. I wrote a couple of posts on why Christ must be God for us to be in Him.

      The fresh revelation of grace that is sweeping the church is still in a state of flux. Whenever there is a shift there will be excesses on the one end and reactions to that on the other. We need to be patient and let people grow in it. The Holy Spirit will straighten us all out. 🙂

      And, yes, the best thing for people to see is our love. We are all learning and growing up into Christ. They need to see the fruit of the Spirit in us (Gal.5:22-23). Blessings.

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