No More Apologies (or Labels)

Church

“Oh, I’m not that kind of Christian.” I have uttered those words more times than I can count. As a child, playing with neighbors, in the halls of middle and high school, in social gatherings in college, in offices I’ve worked in, and now, as an ordained minister, seemingly to most every person I meet. I’ve grown weary of apologizing for my faith. Maybe you have as well.

It’s a heck of an introduction isn’t it? We haven’t helped ourselves either by labeling our faith. Liberal, Progressive, Mainline, pick your poison. We use those terms to describe our faith in a way that makes faith sound unlike the way of Jesus. Truth be told, it sounds like an apology. We’ve allowed those with a more narrow and closed view define what it means to be Christian. You don’t hear fundamentalists say, “Oh, I’m Not That Kind of Christian.”

When I read the Bible I hear about a God that calls and claims each and every person in a unique way. I hear about a God that challenges us to love more, not less. I read about people’s authentic struggle to live into God’s call. I see a God who breaks down human created boundaries at every turn. I hear Jesus’ words spoken over and over again to individuals, to crowds gathered, to groups on the margins that God’s proclaims release from their captivity and freedom to be who God created them to be. Collectively we are entrusted with the stewardship of God’s creation. We challenged to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, house the homeless, proclaim release to the captive. I am reminded that Jesus went out of his way to be with people on the margins and to offer them life abundant. I am challenged to welcome all just as God has welcomed us all. Each and every one of us receives the Good News that out of death, God always brings life. These aren’t progressive or liberal ideas, these are biblical ideas that must be at the core of any Christian faith. These are Christian ideas. These ideals when lived out embody the way of Jesus.

I’m tired of labels limiting the expansiveness of our witness. I’m tired of fighting the same old battles. I’m past tearing apart the words of Jesus or deep investigations into the facts of biblical events. When we do that, we are majoring in the minors. I’ve moved to a place where I want to embrace both the awe and the mystery of the Bible. I want to know what events like Jesus’ birth and Jesus’ death and resurrection meant to those living in that day and what they mean for us today. I want to know more deeply what the Gospels mean for us today as seek to bring God’s vision for our world to fruition. I want a faith that builds up rather than tears down.

So, I am done saying it. I’m done saying “oh, I’m not that kind of Christian.” Doing so negates my own faith journey and the journey of others. I’ll work on just being Christian and praying that my life reflects what that might mean.

 

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