New Labels

What does your label say?

No, I’m not talking about the tag in the back of your shirt. (Why do those need to be made out of such itchy fabric anyway?)
woman with labels

I’m talking about the invisible labels that no one else can see, but you can. I’m talking about the kind of labels you wish you could rip right off.

I would define those labels this way:

When people look at me, all they see is ___________________.

However you’d fill in that blank, that’s your label. Maybe your labels have to do with the physical. You think that when people look at you all they see is your height, or weight, or skin, or hair. These labels are usually tied to whatever it is about us that makes us feel the most insecure. The truth is, other people don’t focus on our appearance near as much as we think they do, but that doesn’t keep us from wearing invisible labels.

There are other labels we often wear. Labels tied to our mistakes, or our circumstances, or who we used to be. Sometimes our labels look good, almost like designer labels, but they still make us feel yucky. Maybe when people look at you, you think all they see is that you’re a straight A student, or star athlete, or good girl. Those things aren’t bad, but no one wants to be defined by them.

Some of us wear so many labels, it’s like we own our very own invisible label maker. Every time someone sizes us up, we slap a new label on and wear it around.

There’s a story in the Bible about a girl who knew a thing or two about labels. You can read the whole thing in John 8:2–11, but I will give you the Wikipedia version. A woman was caught committing adultery. That means she was romantically linked to a man who was not her husband. Back in the day, that meant that she could be stoned—as in pummeled with rocks—by peers who were angered by her sin. She must have felt doomed as she was dragged into the temple courts by an angry mob with rocks in their hands. But Jesus intervened.

John 8:6–11 says:

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more."

When the crowd looked at this woman, all they saw was her sin. If we could see her invisible labels, we’d read:

Adulteress
Guilty
Sinner
Failure

But Jesus ripped those labels right off. He offered her new ones. In fact, the Bible doesn’t elaborate on what Jesus was writing when He was drawing in the sand, but I like to think that He was giving the woman new labels. Labels like:

Forgiven
Clean
Loved
Free

Jesus is in the business of replacing labels. Those invisible labels that cause you pain? He can rip them off, just like He did for the adulterous woman. He doesn’t stop there. He can replace them with labels based on His steadfast love for you, His willingness to freely forgive you, His desire to use you to do things for His kingdom . . .

I guess you can keep wearing those invisible labels if you want to. You may have worn them so long that you wonder who you’d be without them. But Jesus offers you the same choice He offered the adulterous woman. You can keep wearing the labels, hung up on what you think others see when they look at you, or you can choose to hold your head high and walk toward a new life based on who God says you are.

What are your labels? When people look at you, what do you think they see? Do you want to keep wearing those around? Or will you rip them off and let God replace them with the beauty and value He sees when He looks at you?

Ready. Set. Rip!

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