The Labels We Wear

Drama queen.  Control freak. Snowflake.  Progressive, conservative, liberal, Millennial, Boomer, Republican, Democrat, Evangelical … We do to love to paste labels on each other, don’t we? Labels give us an easy way to group people, a short cut for the way we relate to others or a reason not to. I can make a reasonably accurate guess at a person’s politics if I see him driving a Ford F-250 pick-up truck. It’s fairly safe to assume that the person in a Toyota Prius votes very differently from that guy in the pickup. I wonder what my Dodge SUV says?  “Middle class American? Safe?”   

For some people having ‘right’ label on the clothes they wear or the ‘right’ emblem on their choice of transportation is very important, a way to state their identity, or their assumed one anyway.  Labels can be mis-leading, even those we adopt for ourselves. When we attempt to be someone we are not, we become inauthentic, people who are ‘all hat, no cattle,’ as is said of wanna-be cowboys in the West.

Christian, are you ‘for real?’ Does your faith form you, inside out?  

Paul wore some impressive labels in his time. Prior to meeting Christ he reveled in his pedigree – “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee.” (Philippians 3:5, NIV) If you don’t understand what those words meant in his culture, just let me say that he was a top tier guy, a member of the elite class.  

Then, he met Jesus, who knocked him off his feet, literally, and when he looked up, he was made new inside out.  He tossed the labels and got right with God. “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:8-9, NIV)  What mattered to him was what God thought what he did and what God said about who he was.

We need to draw our identity in the same way, trusting in Christ, desiring to be nothing less or more than He makes us.  My prayer is that whenever others want to label me that the most obvious choice is “Christian,” because the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience – is in such abundant supply that there is no doubting to Whom I belong. How about you?

As far as labeling others, we need to remember Jesus’ instruction, simple and direct. “Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged.” (Matthew 7:1-2, NLT)  Our prayer must be to see beyond the surface, to listen beyond the words, to love around the things that are hard – just as He did.  

We cannot live the Golden Rule“Do to others as you would have them do to you,” which Jesus taught, if we separate people into those acceptable and those who are not based on our personal preferences.  Jesus went even further –  “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.” (Luke 6:31-33, NIV)  Love like that demands a heart change brought about by His Spirit in us.  

Be careful about forming those first impressions about people. One Thanksgiving day, when I was a teenager, a man in worn work clothes knocked on the door of our home in Pittstown, NJ asking about purchasing a horse. (Dad had a large stable at the time.)  Dad took one look at him and politely told him that he only sold purebreds, Arabians and Morgans, not just ordinary riding stock.  The man smiled and gestured toward his a Rolls Royce™ in the drive, assuring Dad that he was truly interested in Arabian horses and that resources were not a problem. He became a good friend and that story entered our family lore as a lesson about judging others based on appearance.

Checking out the labels? Tempted to wear one that creates an image? Here’s a word from the Word. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” (Galatians 6:14-15, NIV) “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11, NIV)

____________

Who You Say I Am

Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me
Oh His love for me

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
Free at last
He has ransomed me

His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me

In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

I am chosen not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me not against me
I am who You say I am
(Oh) (Yes) I am who You say I am

Ben Fielding | Reuben Morgan © 2017 Hillsong Music Publishing Australia (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

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