No one generally likes to wear labels but we do—and we do it to ourselves all the time. Depending on who I am talking to at the moment, I label myself a husband, a father, a pastor, an editor, a dog person, or a woodworker. I’m sure you do the same thing yourself. You don’t mind these labels.
We don’t like it when others label us, because too often those labels are not accurate or they carry meanings and connotations that do not apply to us. What’s happening in our culture, though, is the loss of all labels but one. It doesn’t matter what else you do; people only see this one label over your head like an obnoxious Las Vegas neon sign. It’s fueled by our partisan politics and the growing cultural divide between us.
We used to call this prejudice. We see one label and we automatically assume we know everything about the person. Let’s step into politics as an example. Do you wear the label of Republican? To some, that means you also wear the labels of a greed-filled racist. If you’re labeled a Democrat, some automatically assume you wear the label of an immoral socialist.
Let me use General Robert E. Lee as another example. Historians concur that Lee was a great leader. During the Civil War, he was underequipped in manpower and supplies, yet he rarely lost a fight. He was greatly admired by his men, and they were fiercely loyal to him. However, the current culture can’t see beyond the fact that he fought for the Confederacy, so he is immediately slapped with the label of bigot and racist. Never mind that he owned no slaves and was opposed to slavery. The fact that he was a general on the wrong side means only one thing to them: Robert E. Lee was a racist.
We can fuss about the way people are wrongly labeled, but let’s be honest: We do it too. We all have a tendency to label others. When you’re sitting at a red light and the car in front of you is still sporting either a Trump or a Biden election sticker, what assumptions do you make about that person? Labels.
We are more than a singular label. Know someone who is gay? Is that the first label you see every time you’re around him? I’m not endorsing the homosexual lifestyle or agenda, but we should see the other labels over his head: father, musician, person loved by Christ, person made in the mage of God.
The world wants to label people by one trait or aspect of their lives, as if that one label is the whole person. Let’s see the whole person—and let’s see the person as Christ sees him or her.
There is one exception. If you wear the label of Christian, that one label colors everything about you. The Christian label should bleed over and immerse every other label you wear with the love and grace of Christ. We cannot silo our life in Christ from the other areas of life.
I have friends on Facebook who post Bible verses or thank God for something in their lives. They might share an inspirational meme or post that invites you to click AMEN if you agree. Unfortunately, their next post might be a hate-filled rant about Muslims, gays, Democrats, politics, gun control, or their opinion of Alabama football. Or they share a meme they consider “too funny not to share” even though it is demeaning to women. By doing that, they are soiling the label of Christian they claim.
“With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness. Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way” (Jas. 3:9-10).
That is a far cry from the life we are called to live in Christ. That one label—follower of Christ—better impact your other labels, or those other labels will give the label of Christ-follower a bad name. Wear the label of Christ-follower with love, grace, and humility or stop calling yourself a Christian. You’re giving the rest of us a bad name.
“Your life is hidden with Christ in God …. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:3,17).
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