Labels: A Love Hate Relation

Labels: A Love Hate Relation

Posted on 29. Apr, 2010 by in Challenging Status Quo, Re-Imaging Church

I have issues with labels. On one hand I love’m, then on the other hand they so irritate me.

I like labels that tell me what is in a container: this allows me to effectively use what is in the container. Imagine, you need sugar for you coffee and the white granular stuff you grab is salt! Would surely mess up your cup of Starbucks coffee.

Labels assist us in the identifying the usage of something. For instance, most clothes have a care label inside. Identifies the material and how to care for it. I have made the mistake of washing a dry clean only item before – guess I did not trust the label!

There are many similar examples of the blessings of a label. These I like.

But where I hate labels in regards to spiritual things: in this realm, they are detrimental. We use labels in the spiritual arena in the following ways:

First – to identify

Listen in on spiritual conversations and you will here someone say something like: “Oh, they are ….(insert any name of an organization, denomination, or theological persuasion here).” The idea is, that now that person being talked about has been identified. Those involved in the conversation believe they now have an understanding of who that person is and what they believe.

I have had conversations with people and when they ask me what I am, I have either not answered, or said Christian. This frustrates them, they press for more info: why? Because I did not give them anything to identify me with.

The problem with labeling someone to identify them is that we all have a different idea of what that label means. Let me give you an example.

The term apostolic is being used a lot lately and depending upon what group you hang with, the definition is different. When you say apostolic there are those that believe:

  • It refers to the catholic church
  • It refers to the office of an apostle
  • It refers to a particular doctrine of salvation
  • It refers to a particular lifestyle
  • It refers to the miraculous ministry of the first church
  • It refers to the restoration of a sending and foundational ministries

So you see, using this word as identifying someone, still does not really ID them.
Just think of the other labels used in Christianity and how this also applies.

Second – to judge
Once we have identified someone with a label, we now use it to judge them. Oh, yes we do! We either judge them as acceptable (and probably continue our relationship) or we deem them as not measuring up to our level. Just imagine that statement “Oh, (slight pause – then continue in slightly lowered voice) they are…..” The implied judgment is there.

On of the greatest control methods of large groups are to label those who do not share all their same ideologies. By labeling them they create this social castigation, hoping they will succumb to peer pressure and “get back in the fold” so to speak.

Ultimately, using labels to judge, creates division within the body of Christ.

Third – to determine our interaction
I touched on this above. When I label someone, I judge, and then determine my level of interaction with them. There are individuals, because others disagree on one theological point, will have nothing to do with them. Organizations and groups have been formed around a few differing ideas. In fact, the level of interaction with the very people we are to impact has been severely limited by the labels we place on them.

Heathens, lost, sinners, druggies, prostitutes, drunkards and the “churches” terminology goes on and on for those that do not know Jesus in an intimate way. We identify these groups with labels, we judge them as below us (at least in spirituality) and we determine our limited interaction with them. Yes limited.

It seems that most churches speak of a separation from these people. Our interaction is relegated to the commando style outreach foray into their lives for the sole purpose of telling them they have a choice of heaven or hell. Then we retreat to the safety of our sanitized Christianity.

Jesus dealt with this mentality from the religious Pharisees in his day:

Mark 2:15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along      with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) 16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Phariseesb saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?c” 17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” NLT

The Pharisees labeled, judged and ignored these people. They took issue with Jesus because He did not think like they did.

So where am I going with my ranting? Labels are ok on food containers and clothes, not on people. We should view each other as Jesus does and go beyond the judgmental barriers of labels and minister the grace and power of Jesus Christ to all.

Just thinking out loud…

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One Response to “Labels: A Love Hate Relation”

  1. Connie Mojica

    02. May, 2010

    Labels divide us but so does what we believe in.
    I believe that we (the body of Christ) put to much emphases on labels and titles when the focus should be on becoming the family of God- following Jesus and being united in faith rather than dividing ourselves with labels and doctrines.

    On being separating ourselves from the rest of society : we stress a lot about the spiritual influence that the world will have on us if we hang around , so we hand out tracks then we run and hide from what we believe will “get on us ” if we stay with the unregenerate to long .

    The later having to do with not being secure in who we are or just needing to grow in the knowledge of who we are in Christ and Him being our helper (learned from personal experience).

    So as a whole, our main focus should be identifying with Jesus Christ , dropping the labels, and our confidence should also be in Christ Jesus looking at Him as our example how He dealt with the lost.(still learning)

    I hope I did not get off topic.


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