“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 ESV
After church today, my husband and I were discussing the sad reality that many Christians choose not to hang out with those who call themselves anything else. Many will say it isn’t so, but when taking an honest inventory of friends, mentors, and the people allowed to have influence, nary an unbeliever will be found in the everyday Christian’s inner circle.
Why is this? Are we not all human? Do we not all need relationships? Do we not all have the same desire to be loved as we are, without being labeled and stuck in someone’s box? Our human brain longs to have order, and order often means looking for patterns as a means of understanding the world more clearly. This means that we are prone to labeling. Labeling things, places, and unfortunately, humans.
What label do we give them, those we know who do not have the same beliefs as we do? “Unbeliever” “Lost” “Unchurched”
Given those labels, we think it is our duty, our responsibility, as the church, to change those we know- to bring them to Christ. I agree, that scripture calls us all to be “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17), but I also believe that Christ “did life” with a collection of people who weren’t “Good Christians”. They were a group of unqualified, discounted and discredited, humans (Mark 2:15). He didn’t try to convert them. He led them with truth and love. And they followed him, willingly (John 1:37). They weren’t forced, cajoled, harassed, made fun of, excluded from influence in Christ’s life. He didn’t label them. He called them, and they followed him (Matthew 4:21-22). He ate with them (Matthew 11:19). He walked with them. He loved them to the end (John 13:1).
What if we didn’t label others, but rather loved them? What if we didn’t exclude them, but rather chose intentionally to do life with them. What if we did what was called of us in scripture? “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 ESV
What if we stopped trying to label and convert others with different beliefs than our own? Maybe then, they would know us as disciples of Christ, not see us as “Label Makers”.