Labels. We all use them. Notebooks, folders, jars, boxes. We label things so that we know what’s on the inside without have to open it. We like to put labels on people for the same reason. We see the outward appearance, and we label just about everyone we see. It saves us time. It saves energy. It’s just easier for us to label people than to actually get to know them. We see this when Samuel the prophet is sent by God to anoint the next King from the sons of Jesse. He see the first son, and immediately labels him as King. “When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the LORD’s anointed!” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”” 1 Samuel 16:6-7 NLT.
Everyone labels, even Jesus’ disciples. As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” Sounds pretty insensitive. Uncaring. Unloving. Before having the first conversation with the man, who was sitting within earshot, they begin to put on their labels. It was common in these days to assume that any kind of birth defect, any bad thing that comes on a person, had to be the result of some sin in their life. So the disciples first order of business upon meeting the man is not to help him. It’s to figure out what label to put on him.
Why? Because it’s much easier to talk about someone than to help them. As Max Lucado says, it’s easier to label than to love. It’s easier to whisper about someone just released from prison than to help them get back on their feet. It’s easier to debate abortion than support an orphanage. Or really get in the debate and adopt a child. It’s easier to bash the welfare system than help the poor. Its easier to label all immigrants than get to know their stories.
“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” It’s a good thing God doesn’t label us, isn’t it? Jesus didn’t waste time labeling this blind man. He just wants to help. He sees this man as a miracle waiting to happen. He wasn’t concerned with why the man was born blind. That’s irrelevant anyway – it’s in the past. Jesus is concerned with the man’s future, not his past.
Maybe you can relate to this blind man. You’ve been labeled. You’ve been the topic of conversation around the water cooler. You’ve been on the outside looking in.
If that’s you, Christ accepts you. He doesn’t label you, He claims you. When everyone else talks about you, He will come to you.
Maybe you’ve been the one to label, to judge. Remember these words of Jesus – “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” Matthew 7:1-2 NLT. It’s our first instinct to label. But we must remember, as we judge, so are we judged. But on the flip side, we will receive grace as we give grace.
We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. What is that task? Accepting people. Caring before condemning. It’s hard to love when we are so busy labeling.
“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.””
John 9:1-5 NLT