Labels Change Things
Is it “new,” “used,” or an “antique?” Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. In fact, it could have extra value because of its age. What used to be worth only a few cents could be worth thousands of dollars today. What changed? The way people view it changed. The labels they use to describe it changed. It’s in a new category now.
The same is true with people. The way we view and label people effects the words we say about them and around them. One of the easiest things to do is to put someone in a category and view them completely differently. We think that if they are ____, or if they said _____, then I get to respond to them in this way…
Jesus told a story that completely redefined an entire category of people. This story and the implications of it changed the world forever.
You can find this story in the gospel of Luke - Luke 10:25-37.
One of the things that Jesus wants people to do is to love their neighbor. The people that lived in Jesus’ time were aware of this and some genuinely wanted to do it. The problem was, most people had the wrong definition of who their neighbor was. The way Jesus defined this category was genius. Jesus told a story that took a man from a hated category of people and made them “better” than the people who were thought of as good and as neighbor. Neighbor no longer was something that could be defined by categories, neighbor was something that you were – to everyone.
When you are a neighbor to everyone, you treat people differently. When everyone is your neighbor you see them differently. You see yourself differently. No longer are there “those people” and “that kind of person.” No, we are all in this together and that changes everything.
After Jesus ascended into heaven, a man by the name of Paul wrote about the nature of this new thing that Jesus started called the church. Paul wrote in a letter called Romans (and 1 Corinthians) that the people who were a part of the church should look at themselves as a body. Every body part is important to the body. Each has a particular function. Just because a hand doesn’t help you walk doesn’t mean it’s not important. Just because your nose doesn’t help you see doesn’t mean it’s not important. A body works together. It cares about each part. If you see yourself as something you are all a part of it changes the way that you relate to one another.
Who is your neighbor? Are you and the person you are holding something against part of the same “body?” How does the way you view this person change the way you relate to them?
Sometimes the most powerful words that shape your world are the ones you use to describe yourself and others.