Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”
Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.
-Okay it’s a joke, but it does capture something in the mentality of the human condition that does think those people who don’t agree with us entirely are bad!
I also remember reading somewhere someone saying “if your God hates the same people you hate, then you’ve created God in YOUR image”.
The truth is the opposite, in Christ the normal things that divide and separate us from one another are overcome by the greater unity which we share by being followers of Christ Jesus. “For in Christ there is no more slave or free, Jew or Gentile, Male or Female, because all are one in Christ Jesus”.
We use labels to define who we are, and who we aren’t.
Yet our identity is not actually defined in the labels of style, theology, denomination or even which translation of the Bible you use… but rather who we are in Christ. Christ is the beginning and end of our identity as individuals, I am a beloved child of God, I have been freed from the slavery of sin by the precious blood of Christ, I am filled with the Holy Spirit of the living God… That is who we are.
You might be saying, “ah yes, that’s okay for individuals but we need something more defining when we are together?” -I’m not sure we do actually, forgiven sinners saved by grace is enough to for me, everything else we can work out in love and grace and honest inquiry.
True all of us as groups together will have our quirks, hobby horses and doctrine issues, and yes these surface from time to time, but let’s lay these disagreements before Christs cross knowing that he defines us.
As a passionate labour supporter, I am dismayed at the way the Labour Party is tearing itself apart over their internal differences when child poverty rises, living standards are decreasing and homelessness increases… We need a Labour government I think everytime someone comes into the Foodbank, yet we aren’t likely to get one whilst they fight amongst themselves rather that fight for the causes they were founded to fight for. Whatever your political persuasion the picture is true, as the writer of proverbs puts it so neatly “a house divided against itself cannot stand”.
The murdered MP Jo Cox said “What unites us is greater than what divides us” although shes talking about communities, her words still resonate with those of us who have pledged ourselves to following Christ.
We don’t agree totally with one another, there is a dying world out there needing it’s saviour, needing good news, needing the gospel, needing hope, Grace and lots of love.
In fact jesus doesn’t say that by our uniformity all people will know that you are my disciples but rather “by this will all prople know you are my disciples that you love knew another”.
The Christian Community is massively diverse, but yet within diversity there is also unity based not on us, but on who Christ is and what he has done.
If we find this a struggle to believe look no further than Jesus’ own 12 disciples which included a zealot (Simon) and a tax collector (Matthew), he also included Simon who kept on getting the wrong end of the wrong stick, and James and John who were called sons of thunder because of their argumentative nature… Yet Jesus got these guys to be his disciples and to launch his Church.
So lets loose all labels except those given to us by Christ (beloved, free, forgiven, filled etc) both for us individually and also when we come together, and let us not be people who pin labels on other Christians or Churches, but rather accept the great challenge to learn to see the face of Christ in the other.