Labels have power.
Labels set and shape values.
Sometimes labels create false values. The monetary gap in value between a "designer label" purse and one of equal quality can be ridiculously huge.
Then there are what is called "Knock off labels!"
Knock-off labels are cheap imitations, false representation and outright deception.
Just as a designing label can add value, knock off labels take away value.
I'm asking my fellow Christians, and especially leaders, to "Knock off labeling" each other!
Labeling ministries and each other in our Christian culture has become vogue.
The nudge to judge has become epidemic. Almost mandatory.
We somehow feel obliged to make judgment.
We have become well-crafted and articulate in the art of labeling each other.
The cross has been replaced by the gavel.
In recent days, we have experienced a surreal onslaught of social media attacks on one of our nation's most popular and effective ministries.
It is a harvest from the seeds of discord the Christian community has been sowing.
Weep, for the reaping has begun.
If you think this attack was an isolated case, you're in for a horrific awakening. The toxic and intoxicating hate that is flooding from media against Christians is real. A hate frenzy that feeds on itself will make Hurricane Harvey look like a Sunday school picnic.
And where did this hate, the sneering and smearing of the Christian faith originate from?
Let me answer those questions by sharing an experience I had in 1998.
As I write this, I'm at the very place, and actually kneeling at the exact location where I believe the seeds of this present hate whirlwind began to be manifested in our nation.
(I know that sounds bold and slightly arrogant, but it is with conviction I risk telling this story for your consideration.)
I was preaching in Hendersonville, Tennessee, at Trinity Music City auditorium. The Trinity Broadcasting Network had purchased the facility and was hosting nightly "revival" services that would be shown live around the world.
I was fortunate to be a frequent speaker. The presence of God was tangible and the holy reverence I felt on the property was unlike anything I'd experienced in my life of ministry.
On this particular night, August of 1998, our then-President Bill Clinton, just confessed to having an affair with an intern at the White House.
History tells us that other presidents committed indiscriminate immoral acts, but this would be the first "real time" moral failure of a president our nation was exposed to.
During my sermon, I was compelled—more like driven—on my knees to openly pray for our president, and particularly his wife, Hillary, and daughter, Chelsea.
Our nation would need the prayers and covering over the "office" of our president now more than ever.
The negative response I received was both shocking and disappointing.
Soon, rather than pray for our political leaders, an onslaught of personal attacks would be shouted with vain-popping venom by preachers slamming President Bill Clinton from our pulpits.
For the first time in my lifetime, maybe ever, and certainly because of national powered Christian television networks, along with other Christian media outlets as a bully pulpit, spiritual leaders and their followers were not only comfortable attacking a president, but it became a "sowing in judgment" frenzy.
We are now reaping what we sowed.
We crossed a line.
As Christians, more tragically leaders, became the merciless attackers of "those who rule over us ..."
The disrespect for the office of the president started with us.
It didn't stop there.
We began openly attacking each other. Preachers attacking preachers. Slapping labels on each other. Christians attacking Christians. A culture of labeling each other had evolved.
We are the problem. We started this culture of labeling, judging, being hateful.
We are the solution.
The call to "humble ourselves" starts by surrendering our personal attacks on authority and each other.
As an American. I have the right to speak my mind. As a Christian, I don't.
The enemy is in-a-me.
The seed in the need to brutally judge everyone and every teaching, beyond content, but supposing we even know the intent, is being reaped.
Our obsession to label one another has labeled us.
Labels isolate, divide and separate us.
Labels draw lines. We can't draw lines on a round planet without being part of the very problem we judge.
To label is to subtly and not so subtly, sow discord and hate.
Take for example, the term "prosperity gospel." This labeling done by Christians was for "blackballing" others.
At first it seemed justified to label a handful of arrogant or ignorant (or both) preachers who turned the "God is a good God and wants to bless you" into a 30-day prosperity plan that just happened to be available for their supporters. (See, I just made a judgment. It comes so easily, doesn't it?)
But soon it became a polarizing slander that labeled those we didn't take a liking to.
That label became a weapon used by the secular-social media to attack one of our leaders.
Our words became their weapons.
The other terms we've coined in our labeling and judging each other awaits as arsenal that will continue to come from a very hurt and hurtful society.
We, the "holier than thou" quick-to-judge crowd are the target.
What we have judged judges us.
In the same measure we have judged each other, we will be judged.
If you are angry by the divisiveness of politics and pulpits,
If you're broken over the broken condition of our culture,
Look no farther than the mirror.
It's our fault.
It's our salt. (Or lack thereof).
I'm asking you to join me in sowing seeds of grace with humility toward one another. To believe the best of, and for each other.
To "Knock off labeling!"
To put away the one-liners, the veiled attacks of hate hid behind our selective Scriptures.
Abate the ongoing debate of hate.
The Christian community doubles in size and influence the day we begin accepting one another.
Resist the nudge to judge.
Reject labeling and the labels.
Knock it off.
Phil Munsey is chairman of Champions Network of Pastors, an outreach of Joel Osteen Ministries and Lakewood Church in Houston.
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