"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!