Love and Labels

I’ve been on quite a beautiful journey lately, though it has had its frustrations. An ongoing conversation with God for the past few months is starting to reveal more of what he has been trying to show me. The simplest I can boil it down into one concept is: love trumps theology—every time.

I continue to start at the point of what I’ve come to know, and while what I know might work for drawing me deeper into Father’s love, it may not be the same for others. One of the things I’ve come to realize is it’s always harder to truly love someone that doesn’t see eye to eye with us. It doesn’t take much looking around to see the divisions—us vs them, reps vs dems, Christian vs atheist, straight vs gay, etc…For some reason, we always have to be the winner, even if it’s not us playing in the game itself. It would seem we’re more concerned with being right than being love. Of course, that’s easily stated, but what are the deeper implications of that approach?

If we place our need to be right above our love for others, then we can easily end up with a system of labels—sinner, saint, Christian, Catholic, Protestant, millennial, liberal, conservative, etc…These are all just labels that do more to divide us than to promote love. When we are satisfied with labeling an entire group in this manner, those individuals just become nameless, faceless…even soulless…personas that we can easily discard as they have no real human value beyond their assigned label—until they’re willing to, individually or collectively, affix our label to themselves. I’ve noticed that even within the circles of people I thought I related to most, there is a wide degree of variance. This is to say that each person is unique with their own nuances and experiences that have brought them to this exact moment in the here and now and made them who they are.

And God loves everyone for who they are, right now, in this moment—not for who we insist they should be.

As I continue this journey, God is whittling away my desire to be right with all the implications that comes with that. The more I ask the whys, the more he shows me over time that all the theology in the world can actually take us further away from him. Our theology becomes our god. I think Paul was on to something when he said:

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith,so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.1 Cor 13:2

I know we’ve all read or heard this and the surrounding verses before, but really consider for a moment what they mean. Wouldn’t having prophetic powers, understanding all mysteries and all knowledge, and being able to move mountains with our faith be more than sufficient evidence of our love? Isn’t that the world altering faith we should seek? It would seem not. Comparatively, if all we have is love, it seems to outweigh all of the above combined! Everything else will pass away, but love never ends (v8)!

So instead of striving for more knowledge or prophetic prowess or mystery comprehension or shrewd speech—or even telekinetic-like mountain moving powers, maybe our starting point, the one thing that will outlast all our divisive labels, is pure, unfiltered love. But this is also one of the hardest things to do; to lay aside our ego and pride and just love those we’ve upheld as sinner for so long—those whom our very religious platform is built upon preaching against; those we’ve assigned our labels to in order to feel more righteously right in our stances. All that right-knowing means nothing because it contains no love—it’s only a substitute to attempt to fill the gap.

But how then do we love like that? How do we will ourselves into love? What if we don’t even feel capable of that kind of love? Where do we even begin? It all starts with being open and honest with Father about ourselves and stumbling after Jesus. Not the Americanized, flag waving, eagle handling, gun slinging Jesus we’ve been polarized to believe in—but the simple 1st Century Rabbi who humbled himself to serve others; who set aside his divinity and fully trusted Father—and even died to prove just what love is. The one who stated that his way is the most beautiful of all:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.—Matt 11:28-30

Is that really what we’re experiencing in all our knowledge and campaigns and wars? Perhaps it really is just that simple and beautiful to follow Jesus one step at a time as he leads us into Father’s love in the peace of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Perhaps that’s the kind of love worth dying to live for.

7 thoughts on “Love and Labels

  1. “we’re more concerned with being right than being love…Perhaps it really is just that simple and beautiful to follow Jesus one step at a time as he leads us into Father’s love in the peace of the indwelling Holy Spirit.”

    Yes, if we take it one step at a time, it truly is just that simple.

    Wonderful post, John.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely post, John. Speaks volumes to me.
    “the more he shows me over time that all the theology in the world can actually take us further away from him. ” Amen. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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