Labels or Love?

Today’s world is full of labels.

We pigeonhole everyone into a “box”, such that we can create sides, generate controversy and friction.  It simplifies things for the media and gives them a battleground they need to drive ratings and money. They may argue that it gives a common reference point for a discussion, but I would counter that by saying they are lazy; they see no need to go deeper into an issue or don’t want to invest the energy or time to classify people on a more individual basis.

We are labeled Republican or Democrat; Liberal or Conservative; Christian or nonbeliever; White or Black; Straight or Gay; Rich or Poor; Smart or Stupid; Broncos Fan or Chiefs Fan.

When we ascribe a label to someone we are at risk of making assumptions about what they think and feel. Having made that assumption we may never then consider it necessary to explore whether it is true or not. This can then form the root of prejudice, stereotypes and ‘fixed’ views about different categories of people.

The crux of using labels is that we then focus on our differences. What makes the label distinct is what gets presented and promoted. We begin dealing with a concept in our heads and not the human being standing in front of us.

Consider a tree and you label it such – ‘tree’. Is it just a tree or is it an oak, elm, maple, evergreen, etc. Besides the more descriptive label what purpose does it have – provide shade, a wind block, provide nesting area for birds, provide water absorption, firewood, a fruit tree; does it have a story or history – planted in memory of someone or a site of a special event (i.e. meeting point, first kiss). If you take time and delve further it is more than just a tree or just an oak tree, more than what its label is.

We need to see beyond the label for things that matter or are the essence of what is behind the label. The hope is that we see things we can relate or connect to – a commonality. A college friend of mine, an African American who was at a predominately white college when he had come from a predominately black neighborhood with New York’s five boroughs, once told me (over 20 years ago) that he felt he grew and became successful because he focused on what he had in common with people and built upon those strengths as opposed to simply looking at how he differed.

In Jesus’ time there also existed labels – Romans, Jews, Gentiles, Tax Collectors – to name a few. Some of the disciples, especially Simon the Zealot, wanted to pit Jesus against Rome. The hope was that the Son of God would be like David and take up a sword. The Pharisees were big on labels for the reason mentioned above – power.

However Jesus based his world not on labels but on love.

He knew that the instrument that would overcome Rome was not the sword but the cross. It was not an act of violence but an act of love. “Love thy neighbor” precludes the status of labeling. Every human being including that Conservative, Republican, Christian Steelers fan you despise was create by God in His likeness and Jesus died on the cross for him also.

A world based on love is an abundance mentality – it keeps growing. The abundance mentality tells you that there are always new chances and opportunities. An abundance mentality operates that the pie continues to grow and the slices get bigger and that everyone can be successful. It is a win-win attitude. Respect, dignity and deference are all key components of an abundance mentality – serving others, investing our talents, providing love all come back ten-fold.

How appropriate that as I am finishing up my thoughts on this subject there is an article in the USA Today that references Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon, “Loving Your Enemies”. King’s speech was about the need to maintain an attitude of unconditional love, deference and respect. King was also acknowledging that people are complex and conflicting, but yet in most of us there can be connections to resolve difference. This delicate but crucial balance never gets recognized when we live in a world of labels.

God did not create you to run AGAINST others or compete with labels, but rather to run WITH HIM in your heart and head. Remember there will come a time when a wolf and a lamb will graze together and the lion, like an ox will eat straw (Isa. 65:25). There will be no need for labels.


About the Author

Bob Mahr answered a calling to combine his experiences as a business leader, a volunteer football coach and a father with his faith to champion and enrich today’s youth.  Bob is a Director of a multi-million dollar division for a National Supply Chain partner; a Volunteer High School Football; an active member of the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes as a Board Member, Campus Huddle Coach and Character Coach; as well as a father of three daughters all becoming citizens in today’s society.  Bob takes his purpose from Luke 12:48 – to whom much has been given, much is expected.