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It’s hard to believe that summer is over. Although it will end officially on September 21st, Labor Day weekend is the traditional start of Fall. The kids have returned to school and we can hear the loudspeaker from the school up the street, greeting students to the new day. I know it’s 8:00 AM when I hear America the Beautiful and the faint hum of students saying the Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t know if they do that elsewhere, but they still do in White Settlement…

The other day, a fellow blogger, Stephen Black, posted an article titled “It’s Not God’s Fault that Christians are Idiots” (www.fracturedfaith.com) I’ve been thinking about that question a great deal over the few days. I’m uncomfortable with the word ‘Christian’ and being labeled as such. What does that really mean anyway? Often, it has negative connotations. Stories of spiritual, emotional, and physical abuse by Christian ministers and church officials are reported regularly. ‘Evangelical Christians’ are frequently associated with extreme right-wing politics and somewhat self-righteous individuals who leave a lot to be desired when it comes to loving God and loving others – the foundation of following Jesus’ teachings. Maybe if I identified myself as a ‘Jesus follower’ it would be better, except that’s what ‘Christian’ meant in the original Greek. Etymology can be frustrating.

I’m told that ‘Christian’ was originally used as a term of derision for those making up the early church because they lived differently from the rest of the Roman Empire. The early Church didn’t quite buy into the whole ‘Caesar’ as god thing. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but Jesus himself said, “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. Not only that – count yourself blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable”. (Matthew 5.10-11 The Message) The sad thing is that religious folk seen to be some of the most vehement prosecutors of other Christians. Maybe truth is just a bit uncomfortable…

So, I’m labeling myself a Christian, whether I like it or not. I’m a ‘Jesus follower’. I believe in grace and redemption. I believe in a God who is loving, and as my wife says, sweet. He created me as one of his kids and, like kid, I simply want to be like Dad. I believe, that despite the fact life has hardships and difficulty, He always has my best interest in heart. I want to share the joy, peace, and freedom I’ve found, so in that sense, I guess I’m even an ‘evangelical Christian’. When I read the daily newsfeed and see what others, who call themselves evangelicals, are doing with the appearance of self-righteousness and false piety, I want to run and hide. I don’t want to be associated with the likes of such. Still, I remain a ‘Jesus follower’, a Christian.

It took me a long time to be okay with calling myself a Christian. I had my own demons and past to deal with. I tried to do everything my way and the results were rather dire. Ask anyone who crossed paths with me then. Such is a life run on self-centeredness, obsession, and compulsion. I finally asked for help and help led me to a real relationship with God. That led me to a lot of frustration with ‘Christians’, since I found that relationship outside ‘church’ walls. Some of you know what I mean…

What I know today, with some degree of certainty, is that the people whose lives touched mine, and the way they lived was nothing like the way I was always taught. I had a religious upbringing, and that really sucks. I learned about piety and fearfulness when what I really needed to know was how to have a relationship with God. In one of my favorite passages, Jesus was questioned by a bunch of religious folks about his propensity for communing with tax collectors, prostitutes, and other ‘sinners’ (my kind of crowd!). His reply was, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this scripture means ’I’m after mercy, not religion’. I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” (Matthew 9.12-13 The Message). I’ve always felt I was ‘outside looking in’. Maybe that’s why I took advantage of the invitation to follow the Rabbi, and maybe that’s why I want to be like Him…

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