Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord..."Deut. 28:10 (NIV)
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)I have a label too. Whether you call me a Christian, a Christ-follower, a Messianic, follower of YAHWEH or some other form to express whose name I bear it is a label. A label that tells the world what they should see in my life.
Anne Rice made news in July when she declared that she was walking away from the Christian church. No longer was she going to bear the label of Christian. Why? Because like so many others, I think she opened the box and found that what was inside didn’t really match the label it bore. Instead of a people who are seeking to be transformed into the image of Christ we have become a people seeking to transform the world into the image of us. Like raisinless raisin bran we have the ‘good for you’ stuff but not the sweetness. Like seedless watermelon filled with seeds we’ve added things that shouldn’t be there.
Anne is not the first, nor will she be the last to open the box and find it lacking. Thankfully she has not stepped away from following Christ, only from being associated with a bland and seedy Christianity.
So what IS in a name? At its core, what should people expect to see in my life if I bear the label of Christian? What would I like them to think of when they hear that I follow Christ?
Let's start with some of the basics.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self‑control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22,23 (NIV)If I bear the name of Christ I will be loving. Not just to those who are like me, not just to those I agree with, not just to those who are lovable...I will be loving to all.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”How often do we get a reputation for being unloving? People walk into our churches, expecting to find something in that box and walk out again having been ignored, criticized, talked down to or judged. Love is conspicuously absent.
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31 (NIV)
Did you get what Jesus said? The most important commandment is to love God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and with all our strength. I can't help but think that if I am putting all of that energy into loving God that leaves me precious little time for running around telling other people what to do with their lives. My sole devotion is to LOVING GOD! And out of that love comes pouring love for my neighbor. Love for the one who is untouchable. Love for the one from whom established religion shies away.
I think for today I'll leave it at that; it's more than enough for me to wrap my brain around. When people look at me, I want there to be truth in labeling. I want them to see Christ's love pouring out of me. Not all the extra stuff we stick in there and try to make important, just Christ. Christ who has every right to judge, to declare me not worthy of his love. Christ who loved me enough to give his life as a ransom for mine. Christ who rose again so that I can live with him eternally.
That is a name worth bearing.