Saturday, January 27, 2007

"A man should be remembered by something more than...."

"A man should be remembered for something other than his worst mistake." The person who said it on the TV show I was watching was arguing for his life on a witness stand. It caught my attention because we so often want to label people in light of their worst mistake. He's a ... liar, thief, cheat, adulterer, murder, flake, fraud, etc, etc.

I hate labels personally. I don't like it when they are attached to me and yet, I am learing something about myself that I don't really like. I remember "stuff" that has happened to me and have attached labels to the lives of those who have done it. "Backstabber" "Hypocrite" "Liar" etc. etc. (There are other labels, but this is a public forum so we'll let them be unsaid...)

My point today is that while I dislike the labels that others have attached to me, I have been very willing to attach them to others. Not good... especially given that the bulk of my adult life has been in pastoral ministry... Now just so you know, I only attached labels to people who went out of there way to make my life miserable, but that still doesn't make it right.

All of this reminds me of a story I heard once about people putting labels on everybody tagging them with all of their faults, mistakes, failures and sin. Think about it if you will. A mass "labeling" event. Every label, every sin, every failure, every mistake, every flaw, plainly labeled and marked for everyone to see. You might think there would be some sense of humility in the room as it was very clear that everyone was in the same boat and no one was "label free".

Then Jesus comes into the room.... not to pass out yet more labels but instead to start removing labels. In removing the labels, people are set free from their past and able to live towards their future. (The story in it's entirety is far better and longer, but I think you get the point.)

Here's what I'm coming to learn about me. The labels that I have placed on people are there only as a result of my impression or experience with them at one particular point in time. They may well have moved on or past that kind of behaviour, position, attitude or whatever and yet they continue to be "there" in my mind because of the label that I have placed on them. This is really about forgiveness and "letting go". The reality of life is that it's just way to short to hold on to the junk of the past far beyond the life of the actual offense. So, I am choosing to be a "label lifter" rather than a "label placer".

As for the labels that others have placed on me, Jesus continues to come into my room and lift off labels. It feels good to be free!

Have a good one!


Anonymous said...

Speaking as one that has been labeled (I'm not saying by you) due to many past mistakes, thank you for realizing that some of us have moved on, past those mistakes and into forgiveness.-Jenelle

Tim said...

Good to hear from you Jenelle. I didn't know you checked in here. The boys were at our house today playing with the Wii. Sounds like it was a great day.

Sonya said...

I really like this post. It's a great reminder to see people the way Jesus sees them and forgive the way He does. Easier said than done, but it's what I've been striving for.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tim, My mom saw advertising of somekind at their church about your ministry, so I had just had a chance yesterday to check out your website. Yes, I did hear all about the puppies at your house. They both are dying to have one of their own!

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about labeling. I know what you mean, but I am trying to define the difference between labeling and what Jesus did when he called people a brood of vipers?

Tim said...

Puppies... do you think they'd like a black one or a yellow one? Could I deliver one to you too??

I'm going to get Britt to take some pictures and we'll do a post on the puppies.

Tim said...

I wanted some time to think about your question about "the brood of vipers". It must have been a common expression of the day because He used it at least 3 times and it's recorded 4 times. (3 times in Matthew and once in Luke...)

I think the answer is in the context and target audience. As you probably remember, Jesus was speaking to unrepentant pharisees. The key word being "unrepentant". Until we come to repentance, not only does the label fit, it also sticks. To me, his "directness" is connected to the pride that filled their lives and thinking based on how important they thought they were.

The difference between those who have asked forgiveness and those who haven't is that those who are forgiven have had their labels replaced with one marked "chosen son/daughter".

Anonymous said...

Just another thought...when you truly accept the fact that you have been forgiven...that's all you have to hang on to because like it or not, there will always be people that can't forget the "label" -and experience has shown me that most of those people are church people. It makes it that much harder yourself to accept God's love/grace and forgiveness when the church won't accept you or your situation.-Jenelle

Anonymous said...

I'm not "church" bashing...just speaking from my experience -J

Tim said...

You're right. There's tremendous irony in the fact that the community of the forgiven are so often so unforgiving. What sparked this post for me was a thought at the hockey game. I was sitting near some people with whom I experienced conflict several years ago. We are now approaching 5 years since this "difference of opinion" and still the icy stares, gossip, etc continue. (You will know who I mean. A letter came to your house from one of them at one point...)

My thought was "Why can't they just let it go?"

To which God responded "Why can't you?"

As much as I don't like the labels they have placed on me, I continued to see them through the same lens I did when we were in conflict. I am as guilty of this sin as they are. At the same time, I cannot change their minds or actions, nor am I responsible to do so. I am letting my feelings, thoughts and judgements towards them go.

They will have to answer for their "stuff" in the same way I will have to answer for mine. I'm just working hard at cleaning mine up before I see Jesus.

Anonymous said...

I tell myself this on a daily basis..."it's between you and me God". I know he knows what's in my heart- and as hard as "people" make some days- in the end, this is all that matters. Thanks for the encouragement - you have encouraged me through your words and experience. -J

C Giles said...

I can remember as a kid having my aunt and grandmas say that when I grew up I would be such a heartbreaker. I remeber the first time that I was told that I had broken someone's heart. I cried not only for the pain I caused but becasue I felt helpless, the label from my well meaning relatives felt like something that I would always be. Now I strongly encourage my friends and relatives not to say the same things about my daughter, not to call their own kids little monsters or brats or any other comment that is all too common and casual. Even something as simple as a nickname impacts a child. Studies have been done, children tend to grow into kicknames like princess or slugger, they feel like they have to to be loved. It is speaking into a child's life to call them a little brat. I know how much it hurt me and I don't want any kid to feel that.