As I surf from blog to blog I see so many people in search of labels. Like the label on a soup can, we’re looking for labels that will help us decide either to buy in or to put people back on the shelf. Take ’em or toss ’em, that’s the goal.
A couple years back I had a parent pull her kids from our youth programs because we were using Rob Bell’s Nooma videos to spark discussion. This mom had read about Rob’s label on some website and decided he was a heretic endangering the spiritual well-being of her kids. Really? Yeah, really.
We have a group of students in Romania right now. Reading their blog posts I see that they are blown away by a couple of very significant differences from here at home. First, they are amazed at how kind the people are. People welcome them into their homes, smile and bring piles and piles of food to their guests even though they have limited resources. Second, when they walked into a local orphanage children immediately grabbed their hands and wrapped their arms tightly around their necks. No one cares about their labels – they just accept them and love them. When they returned to the orphanage the next night the kids ran to the cars to meet them with outstretched arms. They carried drawings and treasures for their new friends. They called them by name.
Our team is humbled by how much the people value them. The love of the locals is shaking them to the core. There is no care of the labels of Baptist or Orthodox – just acceptance.
From what I can see, the church of Jesus Christ is in a constant state of emergence. It is a living, breathing organism that responds to people. Its heart is rescue in Jesus Christ alone. Its character is Grace. Its conviction is that sin is a poison that destroys life. Its purpose is in loving and building people. It is the body of Christ.
Followers of Jesus entrenched in unchanging, dogmatic, legalistic systems that do not bring freedom find themselves having exchanged an external focus for an internal, self-preservationist one. And still, Jesus loves.
Big-tent followers who have dismissed the deity of Jesus Christ in the name of becoming a great “One,” have torn out the heart of the gospel. And still, Jesus loves.
Followers who have dismissed sin and the destruction it brings for more comfortable messages have forgotten the loving purpose of God in defining sin. They have removed the warning labels on the poison bottles and placed them on the shelves next to the soda. And still, Jesus loves.
What am I? Emergent? Traditionalist? Modern? Postmodern? I feel like a pot of stone soup, of late. It seems everyone has something to throw in my pot. Some of it looks great while other things are falling apart and have a rotten stench.
That woman is looking at me with her one eyebrow hiked a bit higher than the other. I can see that she’s trying to read my label. It’s smudged and she’s not getting a good enough look to decide if I am worthy of interaction.
I like it that way.