What’s in a name?

I’ve been noticing a certain word creeping into my life more and more over the past month or so. I’m growing to hate it. E-V-A-N-G-E-L-I-C-A-L/-I-S-M. It makes me cringe everytime I hear it.

Actually, I don’t think it’s the word itself I hate but this incessant need to put everyone in a box, to label them all and to assume that your label is the right one and the best one. I don’t think any of us have got it right. I don’t think any of us even come close. We only have what we have by the grace of God, not because we because we’ve found some magic formula, or set of qualities, or a special name. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus.

Apparently “evangelicalism” is about believing in the need for personal conversion and in the authority of the Bible. Evangelism is about spreading this message. Evangelicals are the people who do the believing. So, I guess, that makes me an evangelical evangelist following evangelicalism. No. I’m sorry. I refuse. 

People (usually those who would call themselves evangelicals) use the word like a weapon. Like it makes them better than . . . well, everyone else. Like it’s only the evangelicals who are truly saved. Or like the world would be a better place if everyone was an evangelical. 

What’s so wrong with just being a Christian? Why isn’t it enough for people? 

My family are from a place where these labels tore the people apart. Protestant or Catholic. You were one or the other. My dad tells a story about a Jewish kid who is confronted by a gang and asked which he was. When he replied that he was Jewish, the gang asked him again, “Yeah, but are you a Protestant Jew or a Catholic Jew?” I get that there’s a difference. And I know that it helps to have a way to identify different people who believe different things. But whatever intricacies divide us we’re united in Christ.

Acts 11:26 “It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians”. If it was good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.


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