Liberal or conservative?
Fundamental or moderate?
Sacred or secular?
Emergent or traditional?
Relevant or irrelevant?
Republican or Democrat?
Christian Right or Christian Left?
Mainline or evangelical?
Reconciling or confessing?
And the list could keep going…
Why do we have a desire to label everything?
We seem to have a great need to compartmentalize things as black or white, with very little gray area.
Within the Church, these labels create divisions within the Body that was intended to be united. Let’s be honest, most of what divides us should be considered “minor” issues. Yet, we allow the “minors” to become “majors”…creating divisions where groups on “Team Jesus” won’t even speak to one another.
So, why are we so obsessed with labeling pastors, churches, and movements as liberal or conservative?
This morning, I read an article intended to be an open invitation to a certain “celebrity” pastor to join the Christian Left. The basis was that the Christian Right seems to be consumed with discrediting every ministry this pastor engages with (many write rebuttals of his books before they even read them)…so why not simply identify yourself with the more liberal side of the Christian movement.
Now, most of you are fully aware that I lean far left politically, theologically, socially, etc. And, within that framework, I do my best to be faithful to Jesus and Scripture. In fact, my “liberal” leanings are greatly shaped by my understanding of and relationship with Jesus and the Bible.
Of course, I fully understand that many of those on the far right are doing their best to be faithful to Jesus and the Bible. And, I understand that their perspective has been shaped and formed as a result of their understanding of and relationship with Jesus and the Bible.
The struggle, at least for me, is that many times I get so frustrated with the political, theological, and social understanding of those on the “other” side that I fail to love them as I would love myself. Therefore, I allow our differences to divide us. I struggle to get past our differing views on Scripture, politics, and social justice that I fail to remember to focus on the things (for example, Jesus) that should unite us. Instead of doing my best to love those with differing views, I end up judging them and dismissing them as crazy nut-jobs. In fact, I sometimes find myself being puffed up with pride when the “other side” disagrees with me…because I’m convinced that I must be doing something right!
Within the UMC, I really struggle with those who are so set on identifying themselves as either a part of the Reconciling Ministries or Confessing Movement. I really have a feeling that we are missing the point. We are letting one issue create a great divide within our “united” movement.
My fear is that our labels are doing more damage than good. Our call is to “love God” and “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.” Our goal is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” I’m not sure how our labels make us more effective in changing the world for a greater good.
So, how do we love those we disagree with? How do we move beyond our labels and let Christ unite us?
“Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” 1 Corinthians 1:10