A couple of years ago, we did a few updates to our kitchen, a Christmas gift from my husband to me. As I am incapable of making any kind of decision without the proper research, I purchased a couple of kitchen design magazines. One magazine featured a survey with the following question:
What term best describes the style you want for your project?
Here are the options:
Who can know? I mean, what is the difference, after all, between cottage and farmhouse?
Labels can be important. It is helpful to the magazine publishers to know what category their readers most identify with in order to sell more magazines in the future.
But labels can also carry more negative connotations. Once, awhile back, we were visiting with my sister and her husband. They are active members of a large church with a fairly prominent pastor. My brother in law has accompanied their pastor on some of his speaking engagements, a great opportunity, he told us, to get to know the pastor outside the church setting and just ask him about anything. “Like, is he a _____, a ___________, or ___________?” I asked, tossing out a few terms we in Christianity use to delineate between various and sundry doctrinal interpretations. It was really a poor attempt to be funny.
(I’ve told you, I’m so not funny. I mean, if this is my attempt at humor; well, it’s just pitiful.)
My brother in law answered quickly, “I am quite sure he is not a _________!” referring to one of the categories I had listed. I was doubtful, but after doing a little research online, it turns out he’s probably right.
When I first wrote most of this post, there was an interesting discussion on one of the blogs I visit on occasion concerning the use of the label “Christian” versus “Christ follower,” a discussion prompted by a series of parodies of the “Mac” vs “PC” commercials posted on youtube. It is not my intent to enter the discussion, nor to criticize or elevate one viewpoint over the other. I just wonder, does it matter so much what I call myself between the two, as long as I am following Christ in obedience and surrender?
Admittedly, I am somewhat leery of being labeled myself. I belong to a church and therefore a specific denomination, but by no means do I define my faith as allegiance to that specific denomination. My allegiance lies with a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. I find it interesting that in Acts, the early followers of Christ were labeled “Christian” and it was not necessarily a compliment (Acts 11:26). They did not name themselves, but because of their obedience and faith were called “little Christs.”
I often tell my husband “He’s you” in reference to one of our children. What I am saying is that son is acting just like his daddy. “Christian” or “Christ-follower,” “________” or “_______,” what matters is that I look like my Jesus. Could someone call me a “little Christ” upon observance of my life? Do I look like Jesus…in my words…in my actions…in the attitude of my mind and heart? Am I “being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord“?
Labels can be important and can provide critical and necessary information. However, in our zeal to categorize, we sometimes develop an “us” versus “them” mentality. We can assume and we can judge, all because of a label we have assigned. In contrast, John exhorts us over and over again in his first epistle to “love one another.” Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
It is our love, and not our labels, that reveals Christ to the world.
Author’s note: Part of this post is an excerpt from the Lisa writes… archives, circa January, 2007, with updates and edits.