Tag switching. I assume you are aware of this common tactic of shoplifters. They take the label from a cheaper item and put it on a pricier piece. Then – voila’! Instant bargain! Hustlers in big cities have a similar gimmick, only in reverse. They sew a fake label into a knock-off and try to pass it off as the real deal. Then – voila’! Instant profit!
Labels can be tricky this way. You can’t always trust them.
For a lot of years, I labeled myself as evangelical. Then enough people tag-switched that word so that people seem to think it really belongs on the cheap knock-off. But you know what – Rolex didn’t stop using the Rolex label when some shady characters in trench coats hawked bogus imitations of their watches.
So maybe it’s time we reclaim the evangelical label and restore it to its rightful meaning. Maybe it’s time we shut down the hucksters who peddle a cheapened version of the term for their own power and gain.
Evangelical Christian has come to mean a coveted voting bloc, a group of white Christian Republicans. Somewhere along the line, Christian preachers yoked up with Republican politicians in exchange for some clout, some favor, some power. And with the slightest of hand, the label switched. Instead of the true and beautiful and valuable, eternal good news of Jesus, the label got smacked onto the shoddy, corrupt ambition of control and temporal power. And the people followed the label, slowly morphing their colors to fit the new definition, like dogmatic chameleons.
But an evangelist is an enthusiastic advocate, a person who evangelizes, who preaches the gospel. The gospel – the good news about Jesus and the kingdom of God. The kingdom that belongs to the poor in spirit, the kingdom that is a pearl of great price, a treasure hidden, the kingdom that must be received like a small child – wholly powerless and dependent on our Father. (Mt. 5:3, Mt. 13, Mk. 10:15) The gospel is the good news about a kingdom that is here yet not here, a kingdom being built by every action of loving God and loving people.
The gospel is the good news about a kingdom that is exactly the opposite of a greedy grab for power and control. The kingdom of God is all about giving up ourselves and everything we are and have in order to submit to the reign and rule of Jesus. Jesus – who loves the outcasts and marginalized and calls sinners out of the shadows and invites himself to dinner at their homes. Jesus – who didn’t mind being touched by sickness and sin and shame. Jesus – who came to be one of us so that we could understand just how much God loves us.
Jesus is my favorite! Jesus loves us. So, so much. He didn’t come to give us power. He came to give us life! To love us to life.
This is such good news. The best news. And this is supposed to be our message. We are called to be enthusiastic advocates for the upside-down kingdom of God, the kingdom that doesn’t see power the way the world sees power.
It breaks my heart that this beautiful gift – this valuable treasure – has been traded out for a trench coat full of shiny, worthless junk that will tarnish and turn your wrist green.