Walter Brueegemann, one of the most influential contemporary theologians put his finger on a key issue for Christians — labelling others. “To beat each other up with labels like capitalism or communism or socialism is simply a waste of time.” [I’d add LGBTQ, atheistic humanism and all political labels to that list!] Labels get in the way of what Jesus was trying to get across to us — what Brueegemann calls “neighbourliness.” He wrote “The discussion needs to start with what it means to be made in the image of God. The confession of the Christian faith is that all of God’s human creatures are made in the image of God. That means they are to be treated with dignity, offered maintenance and security, as is necessary. . . The only thing that will change people’s minds about this is getting to know people who are (different than you are).”
But what if (the labelled group) is out to subvert my way of life and harm my children and family?
Labelling, which flows out of fear is incompatible with being a neighbour. Suspending your use of labels and taking risks is what it means to love one’s neighbour. That is the essence of Jesus’s parable about the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan, an outsider and not an accepted religious practitioner, took the risk to rescue and care for the man who had been beaten by robbers even though he didn’t know the man. St Paul summarized the importance of this parable for Christians: “Love your neighbour as yourself. Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.” (Romans 13: 9-10)
There is an epidemic of labelling in the media and on the Internet, which flows into our conversations and even our beliefs. We need to guard against being infected by this. Labelling has no place in the Christian community!