Label Me This

As bloggers and members of the media have written about Third World Symphony, they’ve sometimes struggled to label me – sometimes choosing the wrong label entirely.

When the labels “philanthropist” or “humanitarian” are affixed to me, “Christian” loses its meaning.

Gresham (9) and Gabriella (10) recently became Christians. They did not ask Jesus into their heart. They didn’t “accept” Jesus. Because this is not the language of the Bible. It is language invented by American evangelists of the early 1900’s and it’s downright misleading – dangerous even. This language allowed me to believe for most of my life that I could be a Christian and not live more and more like Christ.

Jesus is not in need of my acceptance – I am in desperate need of His. And in response to His acceptance of me I call Him “Lord.” I “repent”, or shift my allegiance from my comfort and happiness, from my will and my way, to Him. Jesus is Lord – Master – King!

And if He is King then I am His much-loved servant. He possesses me, lives in me and also through me. His mind thinks alongside my own. His emotions beat alongside mine. His compassion and love thrum within me. And He, wearing me like a suit of skin and bone, walks around this place aiming to believe and behave as He did 2000 years ago. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives through me, the apostle Paul explained.

When I was six I ran down the aisle of a little Baptist church because I wanted to be forgiven of my sins and live with Jesus in heaven someday. I asked Jesus into my heart by repeating a prayer the preacher recited. And then I went to Sunday school and Wednesday night church and told my friends about Jesus and – as I became a teen – I didn’t drink or have sex with my girlfriends or use drugs or say bad words. I stayed out of trouble while I waited to die and see Jesus.

After two years of conversation and bible study, Gresham and Gabriella, one day last week, told me Jesus is their King. They believe Jesus is God’s Son and that He was punished in their place on the cross, that he rose again and lives today. They believe God has forgiven them, loves them, and wants to be with them forever in heaven.

But they also know saying Jesus is their King is a commitment that changes everything about their life right now on earth. They know that God has a plan for their time, money, talent – everything. By saying Jesus is their King they are pledging their allegiance to Him, saying they want Him in control of their entire life. They are committed to reading the bible, asking questions about it, praying to God for understanding, and then doing what it teaches. They know this can be very hard, that they will mess up a lot, but they also know God and mom and dad will love them and help them every step of the way.

This is a Christian: A person pledged to and possessed by Jesus, giving up all rights to their life, pursuing a daily relationship with God and living life for God.

This is not radical or crazy. I am not a humanitarian or philanthropist. I am a Christian.