What’s a Christ Follower to Be in a Culture of Boxes and Labels

1 Timothy 1:15

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.

This was written by the Apostle Paul to Timothy, his true son in the faith.

The book of First Timothy was written to give Timothy instructions to lead the believers in Ephesus. This was not an easy task in that it included dealing with false doctrine, disorder in worship, the need for leaders, and materialism.

Timothy was in the midst of a complicated culture as are we.

TODAY, there are talking heads in abundance, opinions galore, experts in extreme, and labels for everything and… yes everyone.

In this environment our main goal is to keep our eyes on Jesus and the simplicity of the Gospel because that is where we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit leaving behind wrong thoughts about who we are and are not.

Let’s look at our culture together and see how this Scripture applies to us so beautifully.

CULTURE’S LABELS: Alcoholic, Bulimic, Kleptomaniac, Homosexual, Heterosexual, Bisexual, Transgender, Pyromaniac, Manic depressive, ADHD, Left-winger, Right-Winger, not to mention denominational and religious labels… and how about emo, gangsta, prep, stoner, rocker, nerd, preppy? As you noticed, I listed a wide variety- from clinical to slang.

Labels in and of themselves are not bad usually. They can help people take responsibility like saying, “I am an alcoholic”, which is a huge step for a person, who has perfected the art of blaming. Responsibility is a big step in the right direction. Labels help doctors identify and treat issues like postpartum depression. And if a girl wants to hang out with a stoner, well, Dad and Mom will have the necessary information to protect their daughter. So, labels can be helpful.

So, what happens when sinful man gets a hold of labels? Well it can become confusing quickly, especially when it’s personal. Here are some examples where labels can be misused: An alcoholic guilts his friends and family to enable his destructive habit of drunkenness. Someone diagnosed with bipolar can use this to minimize and justify their inappropriate behavior. A left-winger can refuse to listen to anything a right-winger says and vice versa. Here is another: I read a blog post some time ago by a woman, who was named one of the top 50 most influential women in Christendom today by Christianity Today. She was responding to the Southern Baptist Convention’s passing of a resolution to condemn the leadership of the Boy Scouts for accepting openly gay boys in the organization. Now, she gives some great points in her blog especially challenging some of the church’s obvious hypocrisy in dealing with sexual issues, but nonetheless she buys culture’s use of labels hook, line, and sinker. She continually uses the word, “gay” as a label. Reader, it is the enemy who whispers lies to young boys saying, “You are gay” and in her blog she affirms that lie. She even suggests the Christian Gay Network as help for in her words “gay Christians”.  We MUST take labels through the lens of Scripture, not discounting our struggles or others, but never making those struggles “special” or putting them in little boxes that say “Do not Touch”… Let’s be honest. We forbid no one but Christ. Did you get that?  When we coddle our labels, we choose them over Christ refusing Him and His healing of our deepest wounds.  And we will ALL stand before Him one day and give account. It is Satan that tells us our sin is special, our identity. Our sin is only our identity if we are unsaved, unrepentant; then still Christ calls us to more: to Himself and a new identity in Him.

Look at what Paul says: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.

PAUL”S LABEL: Paul gives himself the label- “worst of sinners’. Now let’s consider why. Look at the verse and consider where the period is placed. I believe that Paul is saying here that the worthy saying starts with the first word after the colon and ends with the period. I don’t believe Paul was giving only himself this special title. I believe he was also giving it as a gift to first Timothy and then to the body from the Lord.

Consider Paul saying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst”.

Timothy saying,”Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst”.

You and I saying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst”.

Now imagine Christ asking, “Who will be the worst of sinners in this generation?” And Paul standing and raising his hand volunteering and through the corridors of time men, women, boys, and girls, have read those words and said, Yes! Lord, me! I get it. It is a call. A position- to both serve and receive more and more of Christ and His love, His goodness, His purity, long suffering, power, wisdom, joy, peace, and self control. It is all about Jesus and making much of Him!

Let that soak in.

And consider further with me evidence of this. In Bible times, the goal of discipleship was not merely educational learning but personal transformation. “A disciple did not grasp the full significance of his teacher’s learning in all it’s nuances except through prolonged intimacy with his teacher,” states Jewish historian, Shmuel Safrai. “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ,” Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11:1. This was Paul’s goal with Timothy. Do as I do, Say as I say, as I am following Christ follow me. And isn’t it true, we begin to talk and act like those we spend the most time with.. Paul indeed wanted Timothy to take the entire saying as his very own, so He could serve with this attitude, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”. Philippians 3:12 And this: “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8 If you are a parent, you can see this clearly, children are watching you and your words mean little to nothing if they aren’t backed with action. Paul wanted his way of life to be caught, not merely taught.

May the Lord bless you with casting all labels and boxes of bondage at the foot of Jesus, that every weakness would present to you an opportunity for more of Jesus, who is the head of the church. Bless you with trumping every label with the best one of all- worst of sinners- bought with a worthy price and crowned with the righteousness and purity of Christ. Bless you with allowing the Father to re-parent you, letting every cultural assumption run through His fingers and given to you corrected: new, afresh, in truth and in grace- healing you in your deepest wounds. And bless you, with the awareness and peace that the Holy Spirit intercedes for you in your weakness.

In Christ Alone!

Worst of Sinners, Diana

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