A while ago, during the course of the week, I was called both a Zionist and a Yankee. I wasn’t sure what a Zionist is, so I came home to look it up. I joked with my husband that there are a lot worse things to be called, but still I felt misunderstood. Someone was putting me in a category simply because God has given me a love for the Jewish people, and I encourage others to pray for Israel. Another person thought my rapid speaking was an indicator I came from somewhere “up North.”
I decided to blog about this topic to challenge myself and others to be cautious in when using labels. Labels have power. For their own convenience, someone placed me in a category without really knowing or understanding me. It is all too common to label someone based on a cursory conversation or specific criteria. Our education system is filled with labels. Even in our churches, we tend to label and categorize. Whether charismatic or Calvinist, senior or millennial, these labels imply something the user may think useful, but likely the one labeled will feel unvalued or “put in a box.”
Jesus was familiar with labels. In John 10:20 Jesus was accused of being “demon-possessed and raving mad.” In Mark 3:21, Jesus was labeled, “out of his mind.” In Matthew 11:19, Some said, “Here is a glutton and drunkard.” Obviously, all those labels are clearly incorrect!
Labels limit. Someone mentioned to me that she could not find a small group to attend because none of the labels fit – She felt excluded rather than connected.
Jesus came to tear down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, man and woman. He made us one in Christ. He removes our labels but gives us a new name. What ultimately matters is not how we are labeled by men but that our identity is in Christ as forgiven, redeemed children of God. Even so, take care not to employ careless labels which could lead to hurt or misunderstandings we never intend.