There’s an old expression that I can’t quite remember…something about painting everyone with a wide brush. (Feel free to correct me.) This picture reminds me of how much I dislike the practice.
When I saw this empty carton in the bushes at McDonalds, I could have thought, “Man, smokers are so rude!” but I didn’t, because not all smokers are rude. In similar vein, not all blacks are ___________, not all gays are _______, not all Christians are _________, not all athiests are ________, not all Republicans are ________, not all Democrats are _________…
I don’t care what group you’re talking about, there are VERY few things you can say that would unconditionally apply to every member of that group. So why do we insist on assuming…or pretending…that we can?
Is it because we’re lazy, because it’s easier to assume we know people than it is to actually get to know them? Is it because humans are instinctively judgmental? Is it because we have an undeniable need to apply labels (and make our own definitions)?
I don’t know, but it sure does disgust me.
In studying Love, I of course am spending time in First Corinthians, chapter 13. One of the first things you see that love does not do is “parade itself.” (KJV “vaunteth”) Most of us don’t literally walk around saying, “Look at me! I am too good for you!” Clearly, this is a heart condition more than outward action. We may not parade around openly, because we know it’s unacceptable, but it’s what our hearts do that God sees.
One thing our hearts do, when they are not filled with love, is label people. We say, “She’s so OCD that I can’t stand to be around her.” We cannot truly exalt ourselves; only God can do that. This technique, however, effectively puts the other person on a level below us – in our own minds – and makes us feel better than them.
One who walks in love will, instead, use love labels, thinking things like, “Her faithfulness humbles me. Her attention to detail is amazing. She so clearly gets fully into everything she does.”
When we intentionally put love labels on people, we raise their value, their worth, in our eyes. We begin to see them as God sees them, and we see ourselves more clearly as nothing more or less than their fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. When we intentionally put love labels on people, we instinctively begin to treat them differently, to esteem them, to show them the love that John 13:35 is talking about.
When we intentionally put love labels on people, we begin to act like Jesus.