To label or to love

A couple of years ago, we did a few updates to our kitchen, a Christmas gift from my husband to me. As I am incapable of making any kind of decision without the proper research, I purchased a couple of kitchen design magazines. One magazine featured a survey with the following question:

What term best describes the style you want for your project?

Here are the options:

Old World
Country French

Who can know? I mean, what is the difference, after all, between cottage and farmhouse?

Labels can be important. It is helpful to the magazine publishers to know what category their readers most identify with in order to sell more magazines in the future.

But labels can also carry more negative connotations. Once, awhile back, we were visiting with my sister and her husband. They are active members of a large church with a fairly prominent pastor. My brother in law has accompanied their pastor on some of his speaking engagements, a great opportunity, he told us, to get to know the pastor outside the church setting and just ask him about anything. “Like, is he a _____, a ___________, or ___________?” I asked, tossing out a few terms we in Christianity use to delineate between various and sundry doctrinal interpretations. It was really a poor attempt to be funny.

(I’ve told you, I’m so not funny. I mean, if this is my attempt at humor; well, it’s just pitiful.)

My brother in law answered quickly, “I am quite sure he is not a _________!” referring to one of the categories I had listed. I was doubtful, but after doing a little research online, it turns out he’s probably right.

When I first wrote most of this post, there was an interesting discussion on one of the blogs I visit on occasion concerning the use of the label “Christian” versus “Christ follower,” a discussion prompted by a series of parodies of the “Mac” vs “PC” commercials posted on youtube. It is not my intent to enter the discussion, nor to criticize or elevate one viewpoint over the other. I just wonder, does it matter so much what I call myself between the two, as long as I am following Christ in obedience and surrender?

Admittedly, I am somewhat leery of being labeled myself. I belong to a church and therefore a specific denomination, but by no means do I define my faith as allegiance to that specific denomination. My allegiance lies with a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. I find it interesting that in Acts, the early followers of Christ were labeled “Christian” and it was not necessarily a compliment (Acts 11:26). They did not name themselves, but because of their obedience and faith were called “little Christs.”

I often tell my husband “He’s you” in reference to one of our children. What I am saying is that son is acting just like his daddy. “Christian” or “Christ-follower,” “________” or “_______,” what matters is that I look like my Jesus. Could someone call me a “little Christ” upon observance of my life? Do I look like Jesus…in my words…in my actions…in the attitude of my mind and heart? Am I “being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord“?

Labels can be important and can provide critical and necessary information. However, in our zeal to categorize, we sometimes develop an “us” versus “them” mentality. We can assume and we can judge, all because of a label we have assigned. In contrast, John exhorts us over and over again in his first epistle to “love one another.” Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

It is our love, and not our labels, that reveals Christ to the world.

Author’s note: Part of this post is an excerpt from the Lisa writes… archives, circa January, 2007, with updates and edits.


Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

10 thoughts on “To label or to love”

  1. Yes. No one likes to be defined by a label. It does at times help us form a picture in our minds and gain some understanding…but it is dangerous territory. I think often it is done without malice. Regardless of motive though it is usually erroneous and hurtful. What is funny is the devotion with the kids this morning was on how they will know we are Christians by our love. AMEN!

  2. So true. And I think we often don’t even realize how much the concept of “labels” pervades out life. I remember a while ago, when my oldest son asked, “Well, if he’s a _______, can he really be a Christian?” We had to have a good long talk about how our relationship with God is not tied to those external labels.

  3. An observer may call an apricot tree an apple tree or call a plum tree an orange tree. What really matters is the fruit produced by the tree and not the name of the tree. Matt 7:16-17 “By their fruit you will recognize them … a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit.”Blessing,Floweprot

  4. I dislike labels very much, or “putting people in boxes,” but know that I’ve been guilty of doing it more times than I know…Insightful post – thanks, friend.

  5. Hmmm. Food for thought. The Lord has been teaching me a lot about the Big Picture lately. As hubs and I struggle with leaving our church, we have had to ask the question repeatedly, “What do I stand for?” I have found God putting us in some places that we never thought we’d be. Because of the way we labeled ourselves. As usual, His ways are better! We’ve had some amazing experiences on this journey, some that we would have missed if we had let the label dictate who we are. You are such a thinker! I’ve enjoyed reading your last few posts.Laura

  6. Since we made our move to Russia I am more interested in seeing commonalities than differences… I don’t like the us vs them attitude at all!

  7. I have found often enough and experienced because He is God and to receive all the glory, just when we want to label something, he brings someone or something along that would never fit the label and reminds us that He is indeed God alone!

  8. Having a child who has a ‘label’ makes me think about the term more often than others. I appreciate this post very much.

  9. Well yes, ma’am! What a wonderful post. My closest girlfriends and I are all followers of Christ participating in different denominations. We talk about this sometimes when we get together. And one of my friends said something along the lines of”I have a hard time believing that these things really matter. There is not a denomination on this planet that has it exactly right. Because they are all lead and interpreted by humans. And when we meet our Father I am sure he will say ‘this group got this right, this group missed the mark on this, etc.’ But what will really matter was whether or not people could tell that we loved Him.”I think about that a lot. You can call me a Christian. Or a Christ Follower. Or a Baptist. I don’t mind. But most of all I want you to be able to call me someone who loves Jesus.

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