Labels are everywhere! We live in a world that labels everything from coffee cups and clothing to food ingredients and designer fashions.
While labels are helpful for things, they can be incredibly damaging when they define people—their value, character, or significance. And we do this all the time without thinking.
Change must begin to take place. So where do we begin?
We begin by learning how to love without labels. Few people understand this better than Barbara Newman. For more than 30 years, Barbara has provided education, inspiration, and transformation for churches and families typically disregarded by society. This interview is a must-see.
Watch the interview:
We tend to place significant value on what one does, how one looks, where one lives, what one drives, or what one wears—all dependent on what we deem valuable.
When it comes to those who are different—those labeled as diseased, deformed, disabled, depressed, poor, weak—their lives are most often disregarded. Candidly, such attitudes and actions are thoroughly divergent from Christ’s model and teaching.
Tragically, the church is not exempt from attaching labels. I am convinced that if Christ and the disciples attended a church today, they would be looked down upon because of their appearance, what they did, where they lived, and what they said. Stop and think about it for a moment. Isaiah even said there was nothing externally impressive about Christ, but Christ came because He views all of us as priceless, unconditionally loved, so significant that He died for us.
- What are you doing in special needs ministry today?
- What drew you into special needs ministry?
- What kind of ministry training are you doing?
- What suggestions do you have for families who have been wounded in the church?
- Do you ever meet with pastors? What do you say to church leaders when you meet with them?
- How can you help or equip us as we learn to welcome those with differences?
- What is “inclusion” . . . and what does it mean?
- What do you say to parents who are fearful or concerned about the placement of their child?
- What are some barriers to connecting with persons with disabilities?
- How do you help churches interact with families who have older disabled loved ones?
- How do we include everyone in worship?
- What can you say to families or mates of individuals struggling to accept they are in this “category” of “special needs”?
Let Me Hear from You
It is love, not labels that help us understand one another; love cultivates unity and connects us to a full community. Without love, we cannot experience all God has for us as a body of believers.
- How are you leading as a pastor or church leader?
- Would all people feel welcomed in your place of worship . . . are you brave enough to ask this question?
- Perhaps you have been treated as “less than” or unwelcomed; so was Christ. And yet, He remained faithful to living and loving every person . . . all their “greens” and “pinks” as Barbara put it.
- Maybe you are resentful, angry, or bitter because you have allowed an earthly label to define you rather than how Christ defines you. Isn’t it time to let that go and give life a chance?
- What part of this interview was most difficult for you to hear and why?
- What needs have yet to be met in your community, and are you willing to step out regardless of what others may think or say?
- Begin today to be known as a person who loves others without regard to some label. What will it take for you to make that step?
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Insight for Living Ministries Resources by Charles R. Swindoll
- “God’s Blessings in Matthew 5” from the series Meeting God in Familiar Places, individual message on CD (also available in MP3 format for download)
- Church Family Values, CD series of 4 CDs
- Defusing Disharmony: Seeking Restoration When Christians Collide, 36-page booklet