Forgetting labels

Galatians 3:23-29

It’s been a long time since I stopped calling myself a Methodist. I started saying I was a United Methodist. That was my way of acknowledging the history and tradition of my denomination. When our church updated our membership vows, I stopped calling myself a United Methodist. Before the update, people committed themselves to the United Methodist Church. Now, we commit to Christ through the church. There’s a difference!

That decision helped me see I’m not a Methodist or even a United Methodist. No, I’m a United Methodist Christian. What a great notion, I thought. I still use that language from time to time today.

But even that is not whole.

Am I thankful for the church that brought me to faith? That called me to pastor God’s people? That has taken care of my family? Of course! I am grateful to God for those things and so much more I have experienced through church. 

But that’s still a label.

And I suppose we’ll always have them. We can’t help it. Non-denominational friends have joked with me about being a part of a denomination. I get to remind them even non-denominational is a label. 

Sometimes our labels help us better understand who we are, maybe even who we aren’t. They can also help us discriminate and judge as we see fit and in ways we don’t always recognize.

Of course, this is nothing new. Early Christians battled this temptation. For some of them, the labels centered on a willingness to take on Jewish customs as part of your faith. Circumcision, for example. Paul addressed this to the Galatian church and reminded them of their true identity. Forget labels. He said, “for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). 

That is our identity, too.

Do we get rid of our other labels? Should I not refer to myself as a United Methodist Christian? For sure, I need to be careful. When I’m not, that identifier becomes more important than what Christ created us to be. I don’t want it to say more about what I’m proud of than what Jesus did for us.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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