The easiest way to kill a person is to take away their humanity. If you stop thinking of them as a person and make them into an object, or just another beast, then there’s no shame (in your heart) in doing away with them. You can simply destroy them and walk away guilt free. You may even be able to tell yourself you did the right thing, for them and everyone else. Would you like to know how to strip them of their personhood?
Give them a label.
Yeah, give them a label. Make people into monsters. Take a person who struggles with addiction and make them an addict. If a person is experiencing homelessness—whether chronically, or for the first time—call them, simply, the homeless. Or if somebody should ever wrong you, maybe even repeatedly, turn them into a scoundrel and a crook. It makes it much easier to write them off (or run them off). It makes it easier to stop caring about them, their person, and their soul. It makes it easier to destroy them.
If you want to get rid of a person, kill ‘em good and dead, stop seeing them as your brother. Stop seeing them as a human being, made in the image of God, and dearly beloved by Christ. Start seeing them as a less-than; make them into a vile, contemptible sinner first. It makes it so much easier to be done with them. It makes it easier to slander their name, and accuse them of things unprovable. It’s so easy because you know everything you need to know about a label.
A person struggles with homosexuality, and suddenly that’s all they are. You don’t care about their past, their pains, and their present. You don’t have to care about their struggles; because now they’re just a thing that you can loath, but not someone that you can (and should, must) love. Now all they amount to is a problem for you to solve. And the solution? Run them off, put distance between you and them; you don’t want any sinners around you—especially not ones that have tried your patience again and again; especially not ones that rejected your help time after time.
I don’t have to condone sin to love a sinner. I can accept them and treat them as I would hope to be treated if I fell into a bad way, because I don’t want to kill anyone. Accepting a person in spite of their baggage is what bearing with one another’s burdens is about. You don’t focus on what junk they’re carrying; you focus on them and choose to love them. And if you really love them you’ll keep being patient and try to help them until they make the choice to run away or stick around. Because, here’s the thing, we’re sinners too.
I’ve committed such heinous sins in my life, some were one time things, and others were recurring. And I still struggle with sin. Every day. If not for the grace of God I could never hope to stand. I would have no hope at all, and I’m thankful that Jesus doesn’t want to kill me—even though I completely deserve it. I’m thankful that he sees me as one of his, even as I cry out “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner”.
If he’s willing to extend his grace to us so freely, then why should it be so hard for us to extend our grace to the people that wrong us? Why shouldn’t we be patient with people when God is so much more patient with us? Why shouldn’t we choose to love people, when God loves us so much more?
Let’s not kill people with labels. Let’s strip useless labels from our language and start seeing people again—the way God sees them. And maybe, just maybe, we can learn what it really means to love one another.