Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Find your label. . .
Sadly, some have spent their whole lives fighting labels. Civil rights denied the label that devalued the humanity of Blacks. Feminists insisted that the labels women had worn were demeaning and that women had to be freed from those labels to be define themselves. Those who were once castigated by demeaning labels once assigned to homosexuals insisted that they deserved equality and freedom from those labels. Now they are being told to find and claim their label and live it out proudly. There is something wrong here.
Labels are labels no matter whether we claim them for ourselves or others attach them to us. We live in a world of labels, some we wear for ourselves and others we apply to others (usually in a disparaging way). Do they matter? Are they worth the fight to wear or to use against others? What about in the Church? Are we a congregation of those with labels? Why is it that the labels are increasingly sexual, defined by sexual preference more than anything else?
It seems to me that the only labels that really matter are the ones that come from God. The label sinner is one applied by the Holy Spirit working through both the Word of God and our own consciences. This is a label that speaks to the whole issue of equality. No one has been righteous. All have sinned. All have fallen short of the glory of God. All are sinners. This is the label we wear both because we are sons and daughters of Adam and because we have contributed in thought, word, and deed to the mountain of sin that condemns us. We are all equally guilty. Whether our sins are great or small, they equally condemn and they mark us with equal guilt and shame. And there the conversation would end except for the fact that God has applied to us another label.
That label is forgiven sinner, redeemed by the blood of Christ. This label also is applied equally. We do not earn it or merit it. God acquits us in Christ by the blood of Christ. The Scriptures are clear. No earthly distinctions matter. Not Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. We are one in sin and its guilt and we are one in the surprise of grace and mercy to the guilty and undeserving. Christ's blood does not flow to the worthy or those who deserve it but to every sinner, indeed for the sake of the whole world. Its power to acquit and redeem the sinner is greater than any sin. And the Spirit works to break down the fearful barrier of the heart to know and rejoice in this redemption.
We do not find our label or claim it. The label finds us through the incarnation of Christ, His all sufficient suffering and death, and His life-giving resurrection. What kind of harm is done to people by substituting other labels for the only ones that count? When the Church honors these self-chosen labels and gives them special status within the Body of Christ, do we not substitute a man centered identity for one defined by God Himself? The Church then becomes an amalgamation of special interest groups vying for prominence or place instead of the body in which all parts are equal and work together for the holy purpose defined by Christ, the head of the body. And is that not what some churches have become?
When we adopt the labels of the world around us, we eschew the labels God applies. We exchange an identity which has no abiding existence for the one which endures forever. What does it mean for Jesus to say that heaven has no marriage? Our culture has failed us. We cannot import from our flawed and failed culture the very labels that distance us from the ones that count. Christians may not be able to direct the culture from these dead ends but we cannot afford to follow where they lead.