Wednesday, March 26, 2014

To whom do you belong?

Labels. You love them and you hate them. They are at once both defining and restrictive, liberating and confining; positive and negative. Labels declare what you are and what you are not at the same time. Labels include and exclude; they unite and they divide. Labels determine and justify your actions or lack of action.

We spend a lot of time doting on our particular label. We examine it, study it, discuss its merits, reflect on its genesis and its logic, we argue for its supremacy, we parade it as something both desirable and indispensable, and we defend it as if our life depends on it. We frown on other labels, we laugh, we scoff, we scorn, we mock, we jeer, we dismiss, we put down, we divide, we demolish, we destroy.

I am...

You are...

OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat...*

Labels are inescapable. They are part of the warp of woof of life. They establish identity and meaning. They tell us who we are and to whom we belong. They help make sense of our past, our present, and our future. Labels are necessary.

But for the follower of Jesus, the use of labels is governed by the greatest label of all. It is love that labels us as disciples of the one who is love. It is love that builds up, edifies, restores, forgives, picks up, and makes whole.

And yet, in the Christian community labels all too often have been used as walls and as weapons. They have fostered and nurtured pride and arrogance. They have justified anger and abuse. They have confused those who belong to the many other so-called gods and lords, as we clash and clamor in our battle to plant the banner of our label firmly over the stumbled bodies of the "weaker" of our brethren. The din has obscured the nature and character and person of the one to whom we belong.

The question then is simply this: is your label worthwhile? If your label leaves the answer to the question "to whom do you belong?" ambiguous, your label may require reexamination, reflection, and either rejection or readjustment.

* The Ballad of East and West - Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)

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