I’M NOT A CAN, LABELS CAN’T STICK


By Akin Ojumu

Our brain makes an average of about 35,000 decisions every single day. While some decisions are trivial and frivolous, others are monumental and life-and-death. For instance, on the choice of which food to eat alone, we make more than 200 decisions each day.

Because of the sheer volume of problems that must be processed and solved, often within milliseconds, it leaves the brain no time to methodically evaluate the fine details and thoughtfully consider all the angles. As a result, the brain resorts to shortcuts. Psychologists refer to these mental shortcuts as heuristics. 

An example of a mental shortcut, which we all make, is labeling. We use labels to compartmentalize situations and behaviors. When we label something, we erect an impenetrable but see-through wall around the object to pigeonhole it. It’s our way of saying, “That’s not who I am.” Unconsciously, labels shape our perception of the world around us.

Adam Alter, writing in Psychology Today, talked about the reinforcing nature of labels. He wrote, “Labeling isn’t always a cause for concern, and it’s often very useful. It would be impossible to catalog the information we process during our lives without the aid of labels like “friendly,” “deceitful,” “tasty,” and “harmful.” But it’s important to recognize that the people we label as “black,” “white,” “rich,” “poor,” “smart,” and “simple,” seem blacker, whiter, richer, poorer, smarter, and simpler merely because we’ve labeled them so.

Since the beginning of time, human beings have learned to marginalize and ostracize the “otherness” of people. When used within the context of religion, labels tend to take on an especially visceral significance. People are labeled devout or infidels, pious or pagans, Jews or Gentiles, and believers or unbelievers.

Even within the Christian faith, there are a variety of theological labels. You have Protestants vs Catholics, Evangelicals vs Fundamentalists, and Charismatic vs Reformed. And theres also Calvinism vs Arianism as well as the Augustinianism vs Pelagianism. Additionally, you also find assorted denominational labels ranging from Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists to the Shakers, Quakers, and White Garments.

Now, don't get me wrong. Christian denominational labels serve a rather useful purpose. They help us establish clear doctrinal boundaries between preachers of sound doctrine and spewers of demonic doctrine. Theological labels are truth tags that mark those shepherding people through the narrow gate unto the narrow road that leads to eternal life from those shuffling the masses through the broad gate unto the broad road that ends in eternal damnation.

Nevertheless, I personally detest labels and resist being labelled. I’m a Christian, and that’s all that defines who I am. As for my theological and doctrinal leanings, I plant my flag firmly on the good soil of the following beliefs.

(1) I believe the human race is given over to sin completely and totally. Because of our Adamic nature, we are debased, debauched, and perverted. Our human nature is hostile to God. We don’t want what God wants. And what God loves, we tend to hate.

(Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-18; Romans 5:12-21; Romans 8:7)

(2) I believe that because man is dead in trespasses and sin, he is unable to initiate a response to God. As a result, God purposed within Himself to redeem those whom He chooses before the foundation of the earth. It’s His divine election.

(Romans 8:29-30; Romans 9:11; Ephesians 1:4-6,11-12)

(3) I believe that no one can accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior except God has chosen him. Except God draws the sinner, he is incapable of coming to repentance. Before they were born, God predestined some for salvation and others for damnation. He did this not because of what they did or failed to do, but because of His divine choice. 

(John 6:37-44; Romans 9:1-27)

(4) I believe that whomsoever God has elected to grant His saving grace will eventually come to the saving knowledge of Christ and receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. If God wants you in His family, He is going to get you.

(John 6:37-40; John 10:16).

(5) I believe that my salvation is eternally secured and cannot be lost because God is able to preserve whomsoever He has chosen until the very end.

(John 10:27-29; Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-14; Jude 1:24-25).

(6) Finally, I believe that as long as we are in this sinful world, we would never be completely free from sin. Getting born again doesnt mean our sinful human nature is dead. No one totally overcomes sin. All of us, including the best of us, will continue to battle with sin until we die or Christ returns. But the true Christian will not deliberately continue to live in sin and will not make a habit of sinning. When he sins, he quickly comes to the Father, broken and in repentance, to ask for forgiveness knowing that His Father will forgive.

(1 John 1:8-10; 1 John 2:1-2; 1 John 3:4-7)

It matters little to me what label you give me because of my beliefs. Labels don’t define who I am and whose I am. What I do with what I believe is what defines who I am. When all this is said and fully done, what’ll ultimately determine where I’d end up is whether or not I conduct myself according to what I profess to believe. For faith devoid of works is deader than dead.

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