Today's Scripture: “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” Romans 9:26, ESV
Theme: You may have been labeled wrongly. In the end, believers are called “children of God.”
CHECK THE LABEL
Have you ever been “labeled”? Maybe you have even done the “labeling” of others. We like to sort people and things neatly into buckets, but “labelling” isn’t usually associated with something complimentary, is it? Our background, education, experiences, and even our assumptions factor into our initial impression of someone. Sometimes, that first impression is slow to change, even as you get to know the real person. If I used any of the following terms to describe someone to you, each may conjure up an image in your mind of what that person must be like: athlete, princess, hippie, bookworm, weirdo, executive, movie star, Bible thumper.
Many of my close friends have told me, “Before I knew you, I used to think you were so prim and proper.” What in the world is that supposed to mean? I try very hard not to be insulted, but I’ve heard it before. In the moment, I think they intend it as a compliment but, what they are really saying is “You aren’t who I thought you’d be based on the way you look.” Yikes! I’ve tried to consider whether I smile enough, if I seem friendly and open to conversation, or if I give off a non-verbal signal that makes people cautionary. I also wonder if there are people I’ve lost out on relationships with because I didn’t get the chance to know them better. In any case, I’ve unknowingly been labeled!
During Jesus’ time on earth, the Bible doesn’t describe Him as physically notable or impressive. He would have been an average-looking man whose appearance didn’t stand out in any way. Isaiah 53:2 says, “He has no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him.” He wasn’t elegantly dressed like a dignitary, emperor, or famous soldier. John 19:23 and Mark 1:7 talk of his attire: a tunic, seamless and woven in one piece from top to bottom, and sandals. He wore today’s equivalent of a unitard and huaraches! Talk about first impressions! Were there people that never bothered to get to know Him better because of the way He looked and dressed? Did they simply dismiss Him as unimportant? Because of the label they put on Him, did they really forgo the opportunity to know the King of Kings? Seems unimaginable, doesn’t it? I shudder to think of how often I may have missed out because I judged an outward appearance and decided not to engage with someone.
Make It Personal: Have you ever made assumptions about what a “Christian” should look like? I have. Maybe you’ve labeled “Christians” as “judgey,” hypocritical, boring, pushy, or fanatical. If you call yourself a Christian (as I do now), perhaps people you know might say, “You’re not who I thought you were...now that I’ve really gotten to know you.” That might be a compliment…or not. Does your label as a Christian accurately reflect what’s inside? Do your outside behaviors match your inside heart?
We label our food, our clothes, our household products, and just about everything we come into contact with. Labels provide us with details about authenticity, what things are made of, how to care for them, cautions to consider, and their best use. We use them for direction and to know what to expect.
The label we voluntarily accepted as a Christian tells people one thing: We have accepted the free gift of salvation from the one and only true God who sent His Son as a sacrifice for all. Now, does your outside match your inside? Does your label fit a negative stereotype, or does it reflect the gratefulness, love, patience, and goodness in your heart?
Pray: God, I want to reflect You in every aspect of my life. Allow opportunities for me to overcome stereotypes so others come to know and accept You. Please give me the strength and discipline to live according to Your will. I want to be kind, humble, generous, forgiving, slow to anger, and welcoming to others. I know I filter things through my worldly experience, but I want to see others as Your children and through Your eyes. Amen.
Read: Galatians 5:22-23; Matthew 7:1-5; Matthew 22:37
Weekly Memory Verse: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b, ESV