As I cut a label from a new purchase, I thought about all the hundreds, probably thousands, of labels I’ve read over my life. You have too!
There are labels that tell us if we can use a microwave, freezer, oven or dishwasher. More labels tell us if we need hot or cold, color-safe, warm iron or no iron. Then there are the labels that tell us not to step on the top step, not to use something outdoors; and if it’s an electric item there are even more labels.
And I’m sure you can think of a ton more! Like food container labels to know what we’re eating. Then there’s those labels which warn us not to “remove under penalty of law”…..
Besides the labels we read every day, we face labels placed on people. Labels placed on ourselves. In fact, our culture seems obsessed with labels. People are Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent; or they’re on the “right” or “left” of “middle-of-the-road” or “apathetic.” Then there are those labeled as highly intelligent, and those who are learning disabled. Personality traits have labels: introvert, extrovert or over-sensitive or over-bearing; aggressive, passive. A pessimist or an optimist. On and on and on….
Life comes at each one of us in minute-by-minute segments that make up a 24-hour day, and we each do the best we can making decisions in those minutes. Sometimes it’s decisions in split-seconds! Life is not a test where we get multiple choices to be right. If we pick choice “A” we rarely get the chance to go back and pick choice “B.” What is done is done, for the most part. And labeling what we did as “good” or “bad” isn’t wise in any respect.
Jesus was labeled. He was a “healer” and a “prophet” and a “teacher.” Then there were those who labeled him a “trouble-maker” and a “blasphemer” and just a “carpenter.” And because of labels, he was crucified.
Maybe the reason Jesus the Christ did not call himself by any label is a hint to us today. His example is there for us to imitate. He loved and felt compassion for everyone who came to him, even little children. And lepers and prostitutes and soldiers and notorious sinners. He never labeled any of them.
But he did say–three times–“Woe unto you” to the ultra-“righteous” Pharisees and followed it up with words such as “brood of vipers” and a few other choice descriptions. If there was ever a label…
I think what I’ve learned this week as I’ve thought about labels is that they’re generally not good. And not something I should be quick to apply to people. I know I don’t want to have a label slapped on me because of one aspect of my personality or education or particular view on some subject. I only want to be labeled a “child of God.” How about you?