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Labels seem to function like a security blanket. A label helps me with my need to belong. Labels also allow me to remove myself from others that I don’t want in my club of relationships. Labels are shortcuts we use when we don’t have enough time to learn more about a particular individual, yet we need to reduce this ambiguity and uncertainty to a tolerable level.
If labels are shortcuts to define, then they have a way of limiting the person or persons defined. This limiting factor of using labels could be one of the most divisive dynamics within the faith community. Divisiveness is contradictory to everything that Jesus is. Labels divide; Jesus unites.
Labels are sometimes associated with positions. Jesus warns about labels and positions, when he says: “But do not be called Rabbi or teacher; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, the Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:8)
This brings to mind when Jesus was teaching in a crowded home and his mother and brothers showed up. And they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:19-21)
So, what do you call yourself? A Christian? A Baptist? A Muslim? A Buddhist? A Catholic? A Jew? An atheist or agnostic? Are you a believer? A born-againer? A Charismatic? A Christ-follower? Each one of these sets you apart from most everyone else. Did you get that? Each label sets you apart-divides you from others.
Jesus is against all division by labeling and positioning. He’s all about unity by walking with all who are hearers and doers of the word of God. Jesus is all about being family-relating to each of his followers as brothers and sisters and friends. Jesus is bent on tearing down the divisive, invisible wall of all labels.
Here’s what I’ve come to understand. You can use whatever label you want. Just realize its divisive nature. Take any label and add Jesus to it and the divisive spirit disappears. If you are a Catholic, then be a Catholic follower of Jesus. If you are a Muslim, then be a Muslim follower of Jesus.
Even if you are an agnostic, be an agnostic follower of Jesus. To me, this is the best way to tear down the invisible wall of labels. Choose to be a simple follower of Jesus. Jesus unites; everything else divides.