(This “Application“ column goes with the Bible lesson for May 3, 2020: “His Holy Nation.“)
By David Faust
Don’t libel me with labels. Don’t put me into a cultural box. I have rooted for the Cincinnati Reds most of my life, but my main identity isn’t “sports fan.” I’m a baby boomer, but generational labels don’t tell you everything about me or my builder, gen X, and millennial friends.
I have experienced what Scripture calls the new birth, but I prefer not to be called “a born-again Christian” as if that’s something strange. In the first century there wasn’t any other kind. I am part of the catholic (small “c”) church consisting of believers all over the world who love the Lord, but please don’t label me a Catholic. I join my voice with all who protest the errors they find in the Roman Catholic church, but I don’t consider myself a Protestant either.
The church’s beginning on the Day of Pentecost excites me, but please don’t call me Pentecostal. I believe the Holy Spirit indwells me and bestows charismata—gifts for building up the body of Christ—on all God’s people, but don’t label me charismatic. I believe everything the Bible says about baptism, but I’m not a Baptist. I like the slogan that says, “We are not the only Christians, but we are Christians only.”
No social cause, political party, or religious denomination owns my highest allegiance. By God’s grace I am a believer, a child of the King, an imperfect follower of the perfect Lord—a disciple apprenticed to Jesus for life. Even though I often stumble, I’m trying to walk with God. I am Christ’s servant—first, foremost, forever.
I am committed to the fundamentals of “the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3), but please don’t call me a fundamentalist. I believe in evangelism, but today the word evangelical has a lot of baggage associated with it. God’s inspired book deserves far more attention than blogs, podcasts, and buzzwords. “Foolish and stupid arguments . . . produce quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23), but the good news of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection changes lives.
I appreciate the heritage of faith passed along by previous generations of believers. I have benefited from the wisdom of Luther, Wesley, Campbell, Stone, and many others, but like me, these leaders didn’t have flawless judgment. I refuse to align myself exclusively with any group that substitutes human dogma for God’s Word, promotes ideas that needlessly divide the church, and further confuses unbelievers. Being nondenominational doesn’t give me the right to push my own unwritten creeds and ironclad opinions that would make me just as sectarian and destructive as the unscriptural divisions I reject.
I refuse to jump on the bandwagon for the latest faith-fad, parrot the coolest celebrity author/preacher, or throw all my energy into debating cultural controversies that are hot today but will be forgotten tomorrow. I believe God wants me to pursue holiness more than trendiness, and I’m still learning what it means “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
So I challenge you: Resist the libel of the label. Dare to be different. In a world that’s falling apart, let God’s presence set you apart. Be free in Christ. Be faithful to him. Be a Christian only, and “praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:16).
Personal Challenge: In your journal or on a sheet of paper, write specifically how you will choose to live out the challenges to resist the libel of the label, dare to be different, let God’s presence set you apart, and the others listed above.