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I don’t think I’d have made a very good pigeon. For one, I have a keen dislike for tiny little boxes, especially when someone else picks one for me, puts me in it, and expects me to stay put.

I never liked being tagged a Baby-Boomer. My birthday is near the end of that part of the timeline someone labelled “Baby Boomers”. In some ways I think more like the Baby-Busters. “I wore Buster Brown shirts as a kid, can I be a Buster instead? ”
“When’s your birthday, son? ____ Nope, Boomer. Almost, though, nice try.” I hated that.
So I’m wondering now, do Gen-Xers like the name? Would Post-moderns pick a different name if they had the chance? Who picked that name anyway? I wouldn’t want to be post-anything; would you?

I remember how awkward it was when we talked about faith things at school. John Seely and I used to talk about spiritual things in the lunch line. We were in 5th grade, and apparently thought each other mischievous enough the other needed the Lord, so were trying to win each other to Christ. He could not figure out who or what I was. “Christian” was too broad a term to describe me, I had no denominational allegiances (still don’t, actually), so none of those helped. Everything he knew about religious pigeon holes as a ten or eleven-year old didn’t fit me. And when I said “I believe what the Bible says and try to live it,” it about drove him nuts! That wasn’t explanation enough for him; he needed a box to put me in and I kept crawling out of it.

Even today, with more “-isms” in the world than there are types of amphibians, I’m not about to let anyone fold my wings against me and pigeon-hole me in some –ism, even one with fundamental-something in it, though I’m rock solid on the fundamentals of the faith! There’s only one reason for that, but it’s huge.

When someone picks a one-word label to categorize me, I am at that point defined by what that individual believes to be true about the pigeon-hole they’ve parked me in, even if it’s inaccurate!

When I find myself in a box, the first thing I want is out. When I’m pressed into picking a pigeon hole so someone else can pretend to understand me, I want just one thing. Out.

It’s especially true of religious categories; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “I’m ____(a denomination)___ but…” They don’t want what I think about their church’s affiliation to adversely affect how I think about them as a brother in Christ. How many are there who name the name of Christ but continue to worship and serve in a church while their understanding deepens, though for a time it means they belong to a denomination they only partially agree with. Do they chafe under the name? I would. Some of my friends at work do. What about those who find themselves challenging the truths they grew up with as they learn more and more about who God really is and what He really wants… do they wish the boxes would just go away? I know some who do.

I wonder sometimes if John and Martin look over Heaven’s wall at what’s going on down here, say to each other “Oh-good-grief. Let’s go worship some more.” and walk off together. You know the two; John Calvin, Martin Luther. Ever heard of them? From what I read of their writings, they’re BOTH in glory now. For all I know, they could be next door neighbors in a Heaven-built condo! Luther and Calvin didn’t start the arguments that have continued on for centuries now; their followers did. Isn’t that just like us?

So I can’t help but wonder —and this is all along the same line of thinking— would it help if conservatives, traditionals, blended and contemporaries just scrapped labels altogether? I followed Doug Lawrence’s lead and did just that about fifteen years ago and I have to tell you, it was freeing. I began using adjectives to describe the worship in my church instead of categories or genres. “You know, we really don’t fit in a box, you should come see,” is a pleasant invitation and avoids being pigeon-holed against your will.

Similarly, I wonder if Christ-followers tagged emerging and emergent, either of their own volition or by an observer, will become fed up with all the arguing about their motives, methods and theology —or lack thereof— and say “That’s enough. We’re changing our name. You can argue about what we used to be called.”

Paul got after some folks in a church early-on for this internal bickering, remember? Only theirs were self-chosen pigeon-holes. I am of Paul! (see the membership pin?) I am of Apollos (spoken eloquently and with fervor, as Apollos did). And the Pharisaical (only they weren’t Pharisees) I… am of Christ!

Paul said basically, “KNOCK IT OFF!”

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I started this post about a month ago and have put it away half a dozen times. But I can’t sit on this another day. Friends,I would like to suggest a possible reason for all this quarreling and scrapping – across the board– something that may seem rather out of the box at first. (But then that would be consistent with me, wouldn’t it? OK, here goes).

James said it best, I think, when he said

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it the whole army of evil desires at war within you? [2] You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can’t possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them… (Js. 4.1-2)

Dr. Howard Hendricks —I admire his candor!— said (this is a near-quote)

Every conflict I’ve seen in the church, small or large, widespread or local, comes down to this: Who has the power? And who wants it?

Who’s getting all the attention? I want to be interviewed on TV!
Who’s got… a), b), c) ? I want some.
Who’s known for being right? I want to be right.
Who’s getting their way? I want to get MY way once.
Who’s calling the plays? I want to call the plays.
Who’s setting the direction? I want to.
Brothers like to scrap, I guess — until we’re attacked from outside. Then we rally and defend each other. Maybe we’re due for a good stiff dose of first-century persecution — for unity’s sake. It’s high time we revisit Jesus’ words to Peter, “… what is that to you? You follow Me!” (John 21.22) Conflict isn’t going to go away. We’re 21 centuries into the church and it’s still here. But we don’t HAVE to play by those selfish, prideful, power-hungry rules. We don’t have to climb at others’ expense. We can treat each other the way our Leader wants us to, even though we disagree with each other. And we have, we do and we will again.
James wrote to his readers – the very end of his letter.

My dear brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back again, [20] you can be sure that the one who brings that person back will save that sinner from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. James 5:19-20

I love this. Go get him. Go get her. Don’t scare him, don’t frighten her, endear and correct, return and restore if your brother is wrong. Just be sure before you begin (Matthew 7 is still pretty clear) and stay gentle (so is Matthew 18) .

I know this much for sure. Bringing someone back only happens by talking to them, never by picking them apart, talking about them on the radio, blasting them on TV, preaching against and writing about them. Trouble is, it’s easier to sit on the church roof and lob things at people than to discuss it across the table. This spring my church was blasted in the local conservative media for a four-minute segment of one of our Sunday morning services. They decided, though they weren’t there, that we had abandoned the faith, turned our back on Jesus Christ, and fallen into apostasy. We were blogged about, things went out over the radio and TV –all part of a national network– without so much as a phone call, Email or face to face conversation about the matter in question. Our leaders decided there was no reason to honor that onslaught with a response. Soft answers and no-answers turn away wrath and let the fire go out. I admire them for it. We’d rather spend the energy caring for the people we baptize each month, nurturing the baby Christians we have in our church because people share their faith in the everyday world, and helping people grow up in Christ. It hurt that no one called or stopped by. It really hurt; because we share the same Savior. But sniper-fire from the belfry is easier than conversation, I guess. For some, taking aim at brothers in the faith and squeezing off a round is their idea of fun. It’s sick, I know, but it is. (See Gal 6.1,2, Luke 15’s stories, 2 Tim. 3.1 – 4.8 and others for more to think about along these lines.)

There IS a paragraph that tells us how we might want to play this inning, and I personally believe we could be in the bottom of the ninth so far as the church-age is concerned. We don’t have time to be wrestling around and punching each other in the dugout. Paul wrote it:

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ?
Any comfort from his love?
Any fellowship together in the Spirit?
Are your hearts tender and sympathetic?
[2] Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose.

[3] Don’t be selfish; don’t live to make a good impression on others.
Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself.
[4] Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.

[5] Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.
[6] Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God.
[7] He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave
and appeared in human form.
[8] And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross.
Philip. 2:1-8

That’s How-to. Sure beats a scolding, doesn’t it?

God loved. So God gave. Pretty simple. We cling to a lot of rights and privileges we call rights nowadays. We don’t have any rights. Not really. Every good and perfect gift is from above. We just want the power. We like the taste when power is close enough we can taste it. But power isn’t what God had in mind. I’m sure of that. Not ours. It’s not the box he intended we roost in. He wants us to live in HIS power, HIS freedom, His understanding, His peace. I think I remember Him telling his disciples how the world would know they (we) belonged to Him… something about love? It’s in John 13.34-35.

OK, it’s late (for me anyway). I’m going to tuck my head under my wing and go to sleep. Not in a box, though, not in a pigeon-hole. I’ll sleep on the roof-ridge if you don’t mind. Or maybe on my hero’s shoulder on the statue in town square. That way if something startles us I can take flight without having to first wriggle out of a pigeon-hole.

Nope, I’d have been a poor excuse for a pigeon. I’m sure of it.


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