Monday, October 13, 2008

To me, religious labels are relative

What mantra have we heard more than almost any other the past generation?

“It’s all relative.”

Relativity started as a scientific theory, of course. The most immediate applications were new understandings of time. Not that any of this caught God by surprise.

Think about time from God’s point of view.

It’s rather startling to realize that every 60 minutes, 24 hours go by globally—somewhere on Earth, each minute of a day from 12:00 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. occurs within that single hour.

Even more mind-boggling is the realization that the nearly 6.75 billion people on this planet fast-forward through an entire millennium of time collectively in less than 4.7 seconds. Then again, Scripture has told us all along that to God one day is as a thousand years.

According to Albert Einstein, however, time isn’t the only thing that’s relative. And that’s where relativity goes from helping us understand God and Scripture better to tripping us up if we’re not careful.

Throughout his life, Einstein changed religious labels more than once. Two of the most prominent labels he wore were “atheist” and “deist.” Which is the better label depends on your point of view.

My friend Jim Hislop likes to remind me that labels aren’t always bad. They’re often good. They’re only bad if we don’t check what’s inside first—or if we willfully mislabel someone.

All of us have had the experience of being mislabeled, sometimes maliciously, by others. Just as sad, sometimes I’ve talked with people who have mislabeled themselves.

If someone tells me she is a “former Christian” and an “atheist,” that may mean that she no longer believe in God or His existence. Then again, it may mean that she feels God walked out of her life, let her get terribly hurt, and she’s so angry she’ll never forgive God. In any case, “former Christian” and “atheist” don’t tell me anything negative about her. It tells me only that I want to hear her story.

If you told your story to me, what labels would you use to describe your religious convictions or lack thereof?

What do those labels mean to you?

What should they mean to me?

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