Glancing through my blog feeds this morning, this entry at [hold this space] caught my eye. It’s a timely reminder for those in the Church of Scotland that we should not define people by labels. Only we do. The ‘issue which shall not be named’ so often descends into just that. OK, I’ll name it – the issue of gay ministers. Oops, there we go – a label. An easy shorthand which shifts the focus away from the fact that it is people we are discussing; people who are not defined by their labels, or at least the limited labels we want to apply to them.
Labels can be useful. They are convenient at times and without them our discussions would be laborious and time-consuming. But when the label becomes the person then what we have done is dehumanised them. We have decided that they are just a… As a friend reminded me recently in conversation, the gospel is not about dehumanising, but rehumanising. We find our full self-understanding and self-identity in our relationship with God and the gospel is that God is willing, even dying, to get us to understand that.
My devotional reading this morning was from the flood narrative in Genesis. Regardless of whether you view it as historical or a rewriting of another culture’s mythology, it contains a pretty brutal assessment of humanity and, more importantly, God’s response. “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent towards evil from childhood.” (Genesis 8:21, NLT) We have been labelled, yet God looks past the label. We are all, every one, imperfect. No one is more ‘good’ than another in God’s eyes for everything we do is tainted. Yet God’s grace looks beyond the label and says, “I love and choose you anyway.”
Last year, at GA, there was an invitation to join in conversation over coffee; an opportunity to get to understand the person, not the label – gay, straight, fundie, liberal, whatever. I wonder how many coffee conversations have taken place? It’s kind of difficult to have a conversation with a label. It’s kind of difficult to even accept an invitation from a label; we can only accept an invitation from a person.