Jesus performed many miracles of healing during his ministry. The blind were given sight, lepers were cured of their disease, a woman with perpetual bleeding was made whole. On one occasion while Jesus was teaching, a paralyzed man, not identified by name, was brought on a mat to Jesus with the hope of being healed. The man’s friends went to great lengths, lowering the man through a roof, in order to get him close to Jesus (Mk 2). Not only does Jesus heal the man, but he also forgives his sins. The man picks up his mat and walks out of the house in full view of everyone. What a moment that must have been! We can imagine the labels that had been given to this man because we know the names used to describe and disrespect those who don’t fit into the “normal” profile of our own culture. Jesus gave this man a new life both physically and spiritually. Everyone that Jesus touched was changed, not only were the old labels taken away, but he gave them a whole new identity. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, God calls us “righteous” through Jesus’ blood; we get a new identity in Christ!
Ec 3:11; Mk 2:5, 8-12; Gal 3:28
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. (Ec 3:11) There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one is Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)
When you look in the mirror, in that moment of introspection what do you say? Who do you see? “Hello beautiful”?…maybe so but probably not. Many times the way we see ourselves represents labels we need to overcome. The labels that are internal, the ones that echo in our minds often hold us captive, things like failure, loser, ugly, dumb, addict, misfit. They not only describe the past, but they can define the present and the future if they are not dealt with. If I feel like a relational failure, I may hold back from people I’d like to befriend, or date. Labels are complex and powerful. The longer you wear a label the less it is about your past and the more it determines your future. The good news is that you can overcome those labels, not just get past them, but overcome them. When you lay the broken pieces and labels at Jesus’ feet, everything changes. Jesus not only takes away the old labels, he gives you a new identity. You are defined as a child of God, a follower of Jesus; you belong to God. God can take the past labels and use them to bring glory to Him. He makes your life a beautiful example of God’s power that can be used to change someone else’s future.
Have you ever been labeled? If so, share how you got the label and what affect it had on you. Do you label people? If so, give an example. Why do we create labels? In what ways can labels be cruel even if that’s not the intention? How do you respond when someone you know uses a derogatory label or term to describe another person or group of people? How should you respond? Do you carry any internal labels from your past that nag you? How does Christ help you overcome the guilt and shame of the past? Why are we sometimes our own worst enemy? How does Satan use guilt and shame to keep us from the beautiful life God has in store?
If you have internal labels that are marking your life in a negative way, talk to someone, a counselor or trusted Christian friend, who can help guide you. Make a list of words you’d use to describe yourself, words that you feel define you. Identify any negative labels and bring them to God. Determine why these are in your list. Ask God to free you from whatever is holding you captive.
Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for the grace you give that covers all my sins. Free me from the guilt and shame of the past. Let me see myself as you see me, as your child, not as a captive of past mistakes. Help me bless the lives of others by shining your love and hope into their lives. Use my past to bless and inspire others for you. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.