I had a conversation this week which really unsettled me. It was with someone I like and respect. They were telling me about what they see is wrong with the church at large, and the heresy they see in it. They were quick to label and categorise people who were not in their camp as wrong or heretics. It is not the first time I have had this sort of conversation, and I doubt it will be the last. In fact, I understand the pull of such a conversation, because what we believe and teach matters. Sometimes there are heresies which we cannot and should not ignore.
What disturbed me was how quick we are to jump to labels and judging. There is something in the human psyche where we love to label. We love to categorise people and judge. Once we place a label on something or someone we can feel like we have them all figured out. This happens in so many arenas of life, whether it be political persuasion, sporting affiliation, and it can happen the Church.
“You’re an Evangelical, Reformed, Charismatic or Pentecostal.” Sometimes labels revolve around denominations, so that “you’re an Anglican. Uniting, ACC or Baptist.” It is easy to understand why such labels exist. After all, there are differences in people.
Sometimes though, we can label people to decide who is in and who is out. Who is right and who is wrong. As a result of moving too quickly to such thinking, we loose sight of what God may still be doing in and through someone who is very, very different from us.
In Mark 9 we have this story when one of Jesus disciples came to Him with a complaint.
Mark 9: 38
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
To this Jesus responded in a very surprising way. He said, “Do not stop him. For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.”
What do you think of Jesus response?
Could it be that whilst Jesus is not saying believe and accept everything (after all this man was driving out demons in Jesus name, not the name of some other deity), he is alerting us to resist the pull to label people too quickly and decide who is in and who is out?