Are you out or are you in?

Labelling ourselves can be a really useful shorthand, a way of describing ourselves quickly to other people.  But there are times we use labels to constrain and to contain.  We forget they are just shorthand descriptions of complex people who are the products of complex experiences.  


Labels create edges, boundaries.  Good fences may make good neighbours, boundaries are necessary, but it is easy for them both to become barriers.  Barriers separate those who are in from those who are out.  As dreadful as physical barriers can be, it’s the barriers which we erect in our heads that do most damage to others.  Who is like us, who isn’t?  What makes them like us?  Or not?  Do we seek to reach out across barriers, to love those who are ‘other’?  Or do we stay in our nice cosy enclaves?


I was preaching on Sunday (can you tell?) about the arrival of the Holy Spirit in the household of Cornelius, the Roman Centurion. (Acts 10:44 onwards for those who like to know)  The Holy Spirit completely ignored the barriers between Gentile and Jew, and came upon all present.  Which barriers does the Holy Spirit ignore today?  Which labels do we need to discard?  Which ‘other’ do we need to engage with, to find they are just like us?


Everywhere I have said “we” or “us”, I mean “I” or “me”.  Really.

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