I've never liked labels.
Growing up, it seemed like everyone tried to label each other. I practiced Tae Kwon Do for most of my childhood and adolescence so that was my label. I was quiet and well-behaved in school so people assumed I was smart and a bit of a nerd so I carried those labels, too. I tucked in my polo shirts and wore clothes that actually fit me, and I hung out with kids that dressed kind of the same way so I was labeled as preppy.
We are labeled by the way we look, the people we hang out with, and the things we do.
When I accepted Jesus as my savior and invited God to be a part of my life, the last thing I wanted was to be labeled as a 'Christian.'
There was this image I had of what a Christian was, and I didn't want to be associated with some Bible-thumper that couldn't go more than 2 minutes without bringing up Jesus...some sheltered geeky kid that didn't know how to have fun, who had no sense of humor, and spent all day either in church, buried in his Bible, or trying to get other people to go to church. That wasn't going to be me.
As a result, I resisted sharing the decision I made with my friends and family. I shied away from conversations about religion. I avoided the topic of God if at all possible. My label was, closet Christian.
What it boiled down to was a complete lack of faith and a mis-understanding of what it meant to follow God.
It took me a while, way longer than it should have, and I still have my moments when I don't want the world to know that I have given my life over to God, but as I built a relationship with God, I began to understand a few things.
God made me the way I am. He helped shape my personality and my sense of humor.
God wants me to be me, and not try to be someone I'm not.
God gave me certain gifts and talents that I can use to reach people for him.
God loves me.
God wants to use me just the way I am. And, he wants me to continue to work to be the best version of me that I can be.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
Most importantly, God does not want me to just talk the talk. He does not want me to spout off words about loving others and moving out in ever-widening circles if I'm not willing to walk the walk.
If I'm not willing to be labeled as one who loves, then what is all this for? If I'm not willing to extend a hand to someone in need, give an encouraging word to someone who is down, or say, "I forgive you" to someone that has hurt me, then why would I even say that I have given my life to God?
1 John 3:18-19
Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.
If I'm not willing to love others, then how can I say I love God?
There is never a perfect time to start loving others. No matter what, the world is going to question your motives, bring up your past, and try to shut you down. And if they don't do it, you'll likely try to do it yourself. But God's not concerned with your past. He cares about you right now and into eternity.
When you start carrying the label of love, it is going to be messy. It's going to be awkward. But as you love more, as you give more, and you strive to be more like Jesus, it will get more comfortable. It will feel right. It will reshape your life, and possibly your circumstances.
And as a friend recently reminded me,
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Let's be a church that loves, Radius. Let's be a church that shows this city was love does. Let's forgive those who have hurt us and move towards a brighter future. Let's move past those sins that have held us down, and held us back for so long. Let's be a church that inspires love in other people because God's amazing love has inspired us.
Let's wear our label of love with confidence and boldness.
Gather with us this Sunday as we continue our series, Love Does.