“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14
More and more each day we are bombarded with “identity politics,” the system that labels people and forces them into artificial homogenous groups. Once identified with a certain group, assumptions are without regard to individual truth, followed by rigid rules and protocols for dealing with members of the group. Most often the labels affixed are pejorative adjectives-turned-nouns: Bigot, Racist, White Supremacist, Leftist, Deplorable, Pro-birther. Once the label is attached, the individual is typically subjected to unfair ad hominem attacks: slurs and criticism aimed at a person’s appearance, ethnicity or character, (based on emotions and not logic), instead of that person’s position or arguments on issues. Such labeling invites wicked discrimination in many arenas of work and social order, and often escalates to physical harm, as we have seen in the streets of our nation’s cities in recent months.
This kind of thing isn’t new. People have labeled, disrespected and ostracized others since the beginning of time. In the Bible we read of the shunning of lepers, as though their disease rendered them less than suffering human beings with human needs. Still, today, we speak of “social lepers.” Observant Jews would give a wide birth to the heretical Samaritans. When Paul counseled Titus regarding his ministry in Crete (Titus 1:12), he quoted the Cretan writer Epimenides, who wrote, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” Jesus was criticized for his interactions with “Tax collectors and sinners.” Women were considered to be generally “less than” men. Scholars believe that even the label, "Christian" was first attached as a slur (Acts 11:26). In world history, the most egregious examples of labeling people for wicked ends were the Nazi campaign against the Jews, and the African slave trade, both of which promoted the lie that Jews and slaves were sub-human.
Today it is the elderly and infirm who are pushed to the social margins, and often warehoused in substandard conditions that put them in harm’s way, as was recently experienced when Covid-19 roared through nursing homes. The pro-abortion lobby continues to deny science by labeling the developing pre-born “non-human,” “clump of cells,” “parasite,” and “not a person.” This labeling encourages the decades-long relentless assault on the unborn, scapegoating them to avoid the consequences of sex and the responsibilities of parenthood.
Everyone is in danger of being the next outcast, the next “less than,” the next sub-human. Today’s oppressors will be tomorrow’s victims. It is an inevitable, vicious cycle.
But Jesus – the One mockingly labeled, “King of the Jews,” accused of being a lawless drunkard (Matt. 11:19), in league with Satan (Matt. 12:24) and cursed (Gal. 3:13) – who bears the only label that matters: Savior of the world. Created in the image of God, we find our true worth in the sacrificial incarnation of God in human flesh and the ultimate price that Jesus paid for our lives. We are not defined by who the world says we are. We are defined by who Christ says we are. We are developed through the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work, into the people God wants us to be.
It is in Christ where our true identity lies.