Following Jesus & Labelled Lunatics



Billboards claiming to identify Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a communist training school stand on the route from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery.

Taking Jesus seriously as Lord may cause some christians to consider you a lunatic. Taking Jesus seriously as Liberator may cause some christians to consider you a liberal. Taking Jesus seriously as King may cause some christians to consider you a conservative. Taking Jesus seriously as Restorer may cause some christians to consider you a radical. Taking Jesus seriously as Advocate may cause some Christians to think you have some sort of agenda.

What all of these possibilities expose is the ideological categories we tend to impose upon Jesus. If you or I are not careful we’ll react to those with a need for these categories and labels and fall into the ideological trap. We may be tempted to return the favor and hand out a few labels of our own. Placing labels upon another demonstrates our woefully pitiful tendency to childishly avoid dealing with the discomfort of alternative points of view. Ultimately, casting down labels or constructing categories is our way of stubbornly refusing to deal with another’s personhood.

When it comes to this little conundrum I’ve discovered two things in my short 17 years of vocational ministry. The first is that people who reach for categories and labels rarely see how much influence their ideology has over them, especially when it’s dressed in the clothes of religion. It’s happened to me. It still can. The second is this, the reality of taking Jesus seriously still has to look like something in 2017 and it isn’t always going to align with anyone’s preferences, including mine.

The Witness of the Christian Scriptures

The Christian Scriptures teach us that Jesus preached in the synagogues and demonstrated the presence of God’s kingdom in Galilean neighborhoods. He proclaimed forgiveness of sins and practiced hospitality with “sinners.” He made the blind to see and the disabled able. He strengthened weakened hands and straightened crooked legs. He touched the untouchable lepers and welcomed the unwelcomable lawbreakers. He hugged the hurting and held little children.

Jesus’ own disciples didn’t understand him, his family couldn’t explain him and the religious leaders couldn’t stand him. He was called a drunkard, labeled out-of-his-mind, rejected by the religious right, and lambasted by the religious left.

Though none of us might readily admit it, there is a chance many of us would find him difficult to understand or explain today. I’ve often wondered what I would think about him if he came to us at this time and in this place.

I think he would preach in our churches and demonstrate the presence of God’s kingdom in our subdivisions. I think he would still proclaim forgiveness of sins and practice hospitality with those we consider the worst of sinners. I think he would make the blind see but remind us that though we can see we can still go blind. I think he would prove that the disabled are able but remind us that the able can always disable themselves. I think he would still strengthen weakened hands but remind us that sometimes strong hands are actually weak. I think he would still straighten crooked legs but remind us that straightened legs sometimes walk along crooked paths. I think he would still touch the untouchable and welcome the unwelcomeable but remind us that we should do the same. I think he would still hug the hurting and hold the little children but remind us that when we hurt we can come to him with faith like a child trusting that he loves us.

archer-criminal-hurting-a-person-for-his-back-with-an-arrow-of-an-arch_318-56279Labelled Lunatics Pressing On

Brothers and sisters, keep taking Jesus seriously. He will always embrace you. Be sure to surround yourself with people who are trying to take Jesus seriously too. When the arrows of accusation fly and the Gatling gun of gossip is deployed, stand firm as a peacemaker who follows the Prince of Peace. Lean in to your companions for encouragement so together you can be encouraged by Emmanuel. Pray for the ones attacking you from behind and be quick to forgive, just as the Lord forgives you. Bless them as you are able, even when it is hard.

When you and I decide to take Jesus seriously and other Christians start tossing out labels, let’s encourage one another to remember that the same gracious love at work in us is at work in all.

Jesus is still Lord. Press on.

Zelner & Me.001

From a family line of KKK members, Bob Zellner became one of the first white southerners to engage in the early civil rights movement. He organized sit-ins, rallies, investigations and speeches from Missouri to Massachusetts. He was insulted, violently attacked, beaten unconscious, and arrested over 18 times became one of the first whites worked and led with Dr. King, Rosa Parks, Julian Bond and others during the civil rights era in Alabama and Mississippi. He takes Jesus seriously.

Protests Continue In Kiev As The Opposition Calls For A Snap Election

A man kneels before an Orthodox priest in an area separating police and anti-government protesters near Dynamo Stadium on Jan. 25, 2014, in Kiev. (Rob Stothard/Getty Images)


Sometimes national leaders get in on the label-making, like then FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover.


About Fred

Fred came to serve greater Williamsburg and WCC as lead pastor in October of 2010 and is grateful to be a part of the family. He is a husband, father, certified trauma professional, S.T.A.R. (strategies for trauma awareness & resilience) practitioner, community organizer, TEDx alum, founder of 3e Restoration, Inc. and co-owner of Philoxenia Culture LLC. He received his B.S. in Ministry/Bible at Amridge University and his Master’s of Religious Education in Missional Leadership from Rochester University. Currently he is a candidate for a Doctorate of Ministry in Contextual Theology in at Northern Seminary in Chicago. Fred has also served as an adjunct professor for Rochester University and Regent University where taught courses in philosophy, ethics, leadership, pastoral care, intro to Christianity, and ethnography. He has also served as a guest lecturer on the subjects of racialized cultural systems, poverty, and missiology at various universities, such as William & Mary and Oklahoma Christian University. Fred has authored on book (Racialized Cultural Systems, Social Displacement and Christian Hospitality) and several curriculum offerings, including The FloorPlan: Living Toward Restoration & Resilience. Fred enjoys hanging out with his family anytime, anywhere. He is deeply grateful for how God graciously works through the Church in all her various forms, despite our brokenness. He is passionate about seeing the last, least, and lonely of every neighborhood, city and nation experience God’s in-breaking kingdom, and come to know Jesus as King. Oh, and his favorite season is Advent and Christmas. Fred is a founding member of the board of directors for Virginia Racial Healing Institute, a member of the leadership team for Williamsburg's local chapter of Coming to the Table, and a member of Greater Williamsburg Trauma-Informed Community Network's Racial Trauma Committee and Training Committee.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Following Jesus & Labelled Lunatics

  1. Anonymous says:

    Well said!
    I’m proud to be labeled a lunatic.


  2. Erik says:

    Love this line, bro, and it is full of truth… “I think he would prove that the disabled are able but remind us that the able can always disable themselves.” 😉

    I think we also need to be careful that “lunatic” and/or “heretic” does not become a sought after label, too. While I have been labeled both of these in past (one, particularly by my wife – I’ll let you decide which! 😉 ), I think it is dangerous to wear these labels as a badge of success or pride. We must treat them as a witness to the loss in the communication of the gospel, whether through our fault or not, and like Jesus, weep.


    • Anonymous says:

      Hey bro. I appreciate the comment. I hope you’re doing well, my bro!

      Concerning lunatic, note that it was tongue in cheek. I’m not suggesting these labels be worn in pride or success. But just as Paul tongue in cheek conceded to be considered a fool so to should we throw aside people’s labels and press on. That’s what I’m getting at.


Join the conversation, but please be gracious.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s