Is it me, or do we seem to sit back, ever more comfortably while the world measures, sorts and labels us? It would appear that we are more than happy to take part in this process ourselves as we judge, sort and label others, in an attempt to put them in a neat, tidy, little box that we can put into some semblance of order at a later date. Many supermarket reward schemes do this, based purely on a few questions we are asked during the application process for the reward card and then based on our shopping habits of a lifetime we are measured, sorted and labelled. Using this information they send us promotions that are suitable to our needs and even put the right products on the shelf in the right geographical locations. Technology at it's best? It's scary to have a label placed on us especially if things change and the information is not kept up to date.
I am not a psychologist or sociologist so unfortunately you will not get an expert opinion in this post. But, I know that I place labels on people, based on observations of their behaviour, often over a very short period of time, I make judgements about their choice of music, their ability to indicate at roundabouts and more seriously about the way people deal with different situations; for these categories we have labels such as rock head, organ lover, Sunday driver or man with hat, stress head and the sulker and the list goes on and on. Labels can be good if they are apparently positive, i.e. that person is reliable or trust worthy. Be warned even these positive labels can have a negative consequence. They create expectations, which can lead to disappointment, if or when we fail to live up to the standards they set. Having failed to live up to the so called 'good' label we are re-categorised into failure or a letdown or one of many other negative labels; we receive our badge of dishonour. I suppose this makes a good argument to receive your badge of dishonour at an early stage in a relationship so that you don't have these expectations placed on you and no one gets disappointed!
That's the problem with labels they define us; not only in other peoples' eyes but in our own. Labels are rarely true representation of who we really are, but are based on a few assumptions made about behaviours we observe. At the moment we accept Christ into our lives, Jesus forms the foundation of our living and sets us free from labels (Colossians 2:6-8) but remember scripture teaches us that we should not use this freedom as an excuse to hurt ourselves or others (1 Peter 2:16) . Does that get us off the hook? Again, in my not so expert opinion: it does not. Why? Because there is another part to this issue, the problem is not just the labels given to us, but the labels we place on others.
In Matthew 7: 2 Jesus tells us that we will be judged as harshly as we judge others, a sobering thought when issuing our labels and badges of dishonour. Clearly He tells us not to judge others, when asked by Peter in Matthew 18:21-22 how many times should I forgive? Jesus says 77 times, an example of Jesus' humour here, because He is telling us to keep forgiving. A challenge to us all.
The world will always judge and label us inhibiting us from achieving our true potential, but there is a freedom in living in Christ that sets us free from this restriction, in John 8:33, we are told 'if the Son (Jesus) sets you free, you will be free indeed.' Is your life still measured, sorted and labelled by the world or are you living in the freedom of Jesus?