Label: “a classifying phrase or name applied to a person or thing, especially one that is inaccurate or restrictive.”
I’m reminded of how deeply moved I was by Pastor Jared’s message on Luke 5:12-16, the passage where Jesus healed the leper. In Jesus day, there was no cure for leprosy, therefore by law, all lepers were shunned from society, made to live outside of their community, forbidden to have any contact with family and friends. Forever separated, doomed to die a slow, painful death alone.
Which got me thinking, which was worse, having leprosy or being labeled a leper? Think about it. Now no one ever calls you by your given name. The moment you’re seen, everyone points and cries, “leper.” Some will even throw stones at you to keep you away. The man that Jesus healed had experienced this treatment for years.
Be mindful of the courage that it took for this man to get to Jesus. He risked everything by entering a town to find Jesus. I love how God’s word describes his encounter with Jesus:
“While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean. Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately, the leprosy left him.” Luke 5: 12-13.
“Be clean,” all leprosy was gone, and so was the label.
For years I had trouble letting go of the labels others called me and even more difficulty letting go of the labels I’d given myself. Having been a “prodigal” son more than once, I adopted it as my new label. Being labeled prodigal was far better than my old ones; failure, liar, loser, black sheep, or broken. Labels that reminded me of my past, preventing any hopeful future. Although prodigal was a better label, it still referenced the old me.
Fortunately, that’s not how Jesus sees me; in John 15:14-16, he made this clear to his disciples and all who call him Lord:
“You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name, the Father will give you.”
How about you, do you see yourself as a “friend of God”? If you’ve accepted Him as your Savior, you are His friend, but God doesn’t stop there. You are “clean,” just like the leper. Those old labels are no longer who you are, so why not let God help you let go of them once and for all.
You are more than a friend; you are His beloved son and daughter, forever, for always, no matter what!
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