Conservative, Moderate, Liberal: Labels That Are Dangerous
Conservative, Moderate, Liberal are examples of labels that people try to pin on one another usually so they can identify who are the good guys and bad guys. The problem with labels is that many times they aren’t accurate or incomplete. Especially in the world of politics and Christianity I see a lot of this happening.
Let’s begin with politics. If someone is a self proclaimed conservative, then to them a liberal is equated with bad politics or even being a horrible person. Conversely, if someone sees themselves as a liberal, then a conservative is likewise a person of bad politics or a horrible individual.
But are those perceptions true? When I get to know people of certain political persuasions that are different from me and interview them on issues, interestingly I find that many times we actually agree on several things. So why would I “label” that person when the reality is different from the perception?
Also, people will determine and define what the label stands for, so if someone else paints themselves with the same label but defines it differently, they are thought of as a traitor to the label. A good example is that some Republicans see other Republicans as RINOS, which means Republicans in Name Only. In other words they can’t be true Republicans because their beliefs aren’t pure beliefs.
The funny thing about this last example is the individuals might agree on 90% of everything, but only disagree on 10% of the issues. But because they don’t agree 100% of the time, then there has to be something wrong with them. Where have we become so rigid that 100% is now the standard? I remember if I got 90% in school that was still an A.
I see the same labeling in Christianity as well. If someone doesn’t hold to beliefs that are 100% the same as someone else, then their Christianity is suspect. Now don’t get me wrong, as a teacher of the Bible it is important to be theologically and Biblically as accurate as possible. But we must differentiate from what defines a Christian from just bad theology.
Let me illustrate. My understanding of our faith is that a Christian is one who believes that Jesus is God, died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead, and if we come to Him in repentance and faith and ask him to forgive our sins, then we have become a Christian. We may hold wrong beliefs in addition to what I just outlined, but those wrong beliefs don’t nullify our salvation. In other words we are still part of the family, even if other areas of belief aren’t accurate or maybe just a different interpretation of the Scriptures.
A classic example of this is many of my Christian friends believe that Catholics aren’t Christians because they pray to Mary. While it is wrong theology to do that, if a Catholic declares that Jesus is their personal savior and they are trusting in Him as the way, the truth, and the life, how are they are not a believer?
I have seen many theologies taught in “Bible believing churches” that I find abhorrent, but I would never say those people aren’t Christians. Ultimately only God really knows who are His, so we should walk very carefully in the salvation mine field to judge who is in and who is out.
When I see Jesus ministering to people, He didn’t let labels stop him. When talking to the woman at the well, he didn’t let the fact that she was a female, a notorious loose woman, and a Samaritan prevent Him from changing her life. All of those above mentioned facts were labels about people that a holy man like Jesus was taught to avoid.
Jesus allowed a “sinful” woman to anoint his feet with oil much to the shock of the “righteous” Pharisees. He reached out to a hated tax collector, Zacchaeus, to dine with him in his home. Jesus also invited polar opposites to be a part of his most closest disciples: zealots (advocating the overthrow of the Romans) and tax collectors (usually corrupt pawns of the Roman government). How does that work if labels were driving the mission?
May I give some pastoral counseling before I end this blog. In this New Year make it a point to meet intentionally with people who are different than you in ethnicity, political view points, and religious belief. Be willing to listen, really listen to what they are saying as well as being able to share your convictions with them as well. As a Christian ask God to open your heart to what they are saying and see if you come away with a different perspective.
Don’t fear!! If you have solid convictions they won’t be “tarnished” by being with people who think differently. What you might discover is that the label you have been calling those different people might actually become something that should be the new brand, my friend.