I wrote this piece in November 2014, very early in my blogging days, when I was still hitting the space bar twice after every period and when I could say all I wanted to say in 800 words or less. I stumbled across it this morning, and I needed to hear what it had to say about putting people in boxes, about judging, about remembering that all of us are loved by God.
I have a bad habit — I’m a labeler. I tend to put people in boxes and sort them — liberal, conservative, Christian, non-Christian, rich, poor, smart, stupid, white, black. It’s very limiting. When I place people in a box marked ‘liberal’, for instance, a whole bunch of stuff gets stuck on them that may or may not have anything to do with them. Same thing happens in the conservative box.
I like to hang out with people in some boxes, but not necessarily those in others. I feel comfortable when tossed in with ‘smart’ people, for example, but somewhat self-conscious when mixing with ‘rich’ people. When I mingle with ‘black’ people I feel cool, but when I mix with ‘white’ people (even though I, myself, am white) I feel boring. I have even created boxes such as ‘too-rich’, ‘too-white’, and ‘extremely conservative’. Those boxes are placed on very high, or very low, shelves so that my access to them is limited. I probably wouldn’t mix with ‘those people’ very well, now, would I?
This bad habit impacts the richness of my life. It keeps me away from many groups of people, from diverse opinions, and from new ways of thinking. It causes me to think that I am better than those who somehow don’t fit in the same boxes that I fit in. It sometimes even makes me feel afraid. I mean, if I have labeled others, certainly they have labeled me. Surely they have put me in a box full of stuff that doesn’t necessarily apply to me. Of course they have judged me.
I hate being labeled. I wish people would just get to know me and value me for the person I am, but it’s kind of hard for them to do that if I’ve already stuck them in a box, passed judgment on them, and shoved them far away from my reach. Isn’t it?
I guess if I want others to get to know the true me I may have to invest in getting to know the true them. After all, not all those I have dumped in the ‘Christian’ box think exactly the way I do, vote the way I do, or even worship the way I do. Not everyone in the ‘stupid’ box is actually ‘stupid’. In fact, probably no one that I have placed in that box is truly ‘stupid’, maybe I’ve put them there simply because they don’t see things the way I do.
Maybe I’m stuck in someone else’s box that they have marked ‘stupid’.
I think I’m going to have to recycle all my boxes. Once out of the boxes, everyone could be free to move around, mingle, and see the deep richness and complexity of God’s creation.We are so diverse, so multifaceted, so surprisingly creative, yet we all have one thing in common — we are created by and loved by God. It seems to me that everything else is irrelevant, don’t you agree? He created each of us. He loves each of us. He doesn’t rate us or sort us based on skin color, political orientation, body shape, or socio-economic status. He looks at His kids and He loves us, even when we actively announce that we under no circumstances love Him.
He doesn’t have a favorite. In fact, He would love it if we all tried to share our toys and get along with one another. He hopes that we will see Him in one another and grow to love one another. He has created us to complement one another and to encourage one another — not to judge one another, not to label one another, not to put one another in boxes.
So what do you say, want to take a trip to the recycling center with me? Want to try a new way — get rid of some boxes, destroy some labels, and have a cup of tea? First cup’s on me.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.
I John 4:7-8