Why are we as Christians so into labeling people? That person is an alcoholic. This person is greedy. That guy is a homosexual. That girl is a back-stabber. The world has done a great job of labeling people and all it has done is hurt relationships. When we label people, we strip them of their identity and in some ways their humanity. Then we identify them by whatever label given to them instead of the fact they are a human, created in God’s image. In my opinion, nothing positive comes from labeling. The Church should know this and refrain from labeling. However, we are just as guilty as the world. I do not believe God looks down from heaven and identifies us any other way than one of His creations and an image-bearer. I do not think He looks on people and identifies them by the sin they struggle with. I want to share two things about labeling.
- What do we have to gain by not labeling people? We can gain a love for others and learn to treat them as Jesus treated people. We can be moved with compassion towards people because we begin to see people as Jesus did. In Mark 2:13-17 we see Jesus eating with people described as “tax collectors and sinners.” Why do you think Jesus was able to eat with people described with these words? Because Jesus did not see and define them as the world did. In Mark 1:41 and Matthew 14:14 we read that Jesus saw people and was moved with compassion. He was moved because He saw people made in the image of God. It seems the only people Jesus labeled were the religious. Since Jesus did not get into the game of labeling people, it opened up doors for Him to preach the Gospel to their lives. I have no doubt the sinners and tax collectors knew what Jesus believed about what they were doing, but they probably kept coming to Jesus because He did not label them as such and He treated them as individuals.
- What do Christians have to lose with labeling people? We lose a chance at friendship and a relationship with someone who needs Christ. Christians do not like it when people label us as hypocrites or anything else yet we are guilty of the same thing. What if people labeled us by the sin we struggle with? It would hinder our friendship and relationship with that person. If we want to reach the world steeped in sin, we need to stop labeling people by the sin they struggle with and start reaching out to them. Once someone knows we are a Christian, we don’t need to constantly preach to them or remind them that how they are living is sinful. They know we believe this. They want to see us treat them as people who are made in the image of God. They are not what they struggle with. They are not a homosexual. They are not an alcoholic. They are not a gossip. They might struggle with that sin, but that does not take away from the fact they are still made in God’s image. We all at one time or another struggled with sin and we would have hated to be known or labeled by that sin.
So if we want to reach a lost world with the Gospel, let’s treat people as they are, created in God’s image and worthy of and in need of God’s grace…just like we are. God loves them just as much as He loves us. And if we are honest with ourselves, we know that apart from the Gospel of God’s grace, we are no better off than who we might label as the worst sinner we know. Let’s remember we were once in their shoes and let’s treat them as we would want to be treated. Let’s preach the Gospel fully and love people unconditionally because that is what Jesus came to do.