Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Labels may explain you, but they don't define you.

We all attach labels to ourselves and others.  Culture places them on us, sometimes for good reason and sometimes arbitrarily.  Labels categorize. They explain.  They create common bonds.  They help us understand.  But if not tempered, labels can begin to affect our identity and sense of worth.  They can hurt.  They can stir up prejudice.  They can misrepresent with unfair generalizations.

My wife and kids were at the museum the other day for "Sensory Day" - a day especially designed for special needs families to enjoy the museum with a bit less noise and chaos.  A group of students and chaperones from a local special needs school wore light blue t-shirts that said "Autism doesn't define us…"  And as a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, it reminded me of the power of labels.  They explain, but they don't define.  They can help and they can certainly hurt.

I love how the Apostle Paul explains in Ephesians 2 that "we" are now one in Christ.  The context of course speaks to the Jews and Gentiles of his day, those struggling with an identity conflict in the 1st century.  The Jews had been "chosen by God" and knew it.  The Gentiles knew they hadn't.  But this new Jesus thing resulted in perpetual enemies being asked to gather together under the banner of Christ.  To see themselves as brothers and sisters.  To reconcile their differences and come together for one mission.  Not as easy as it sounds.

Why was it so tough to get past the labels?  Because, like us, they depended on the labels for comfort, familiarity and identity.  For better or worse, they functioned with a view of themselves and others based on things that really didn't matter.  The protective walls were beginning to crumble.  The old ways were being challenged.  There was a new identity at hand…one that depended completely on things outside their control.  This identity was based on the work of Christ on the cross.  And it had the power to transcend all labels that men had created.

So what's your identity based on?  For many, especially guys, our identity is tied to our vocation, our family, our accomplishments in this world.  Maybe our educational level or bank account balances.  For others, it's based on how others see us, whether true or false.  Are we "successful" according to the standards of this world?  Or do we see ourselves and our identity through the lens of the Cross.  The old is gone, the new has come.  Jesus made one person out of two.  Those far have been brought near.  The alien is now the citizen.  All have access in one Spirit to the Father, no matter what label or labels you carry.  That's pretty awesome.

Do you identify yourself as a follower of Jesus?  Does your identity depend on you, or do you rest in the work of Jesus in creating a new you?  One where the only label that matters is being called a child of the Most High God.  The rest really doesn't matter.