Peeling Off the Labels

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After we shared our childhood memories of playing outdoors, our Bible class teacher asked us to tell about someone we feared as a child. For the most part, the members of our class grew up here. They have many shared memories. Often when one member begins to tell a story, other heads start nodding in agreement. However, sometimes they remember the same person or event differently.

One woman spoke about her fear of a particular man who lived in town. He worked for a local physician and his wife and lived in their garage. The ladies remembered his ability to “throw his voice.” He had a bag and teased children by making it sound like a voice came out of the bag. The lady who described him thought he was scary, but another thought he was funny.

Another woman told about a man who lived near her. He walked the countryside slinging a leather belt and talking in a singsong voice. He wore overalls with only one strap fastened and no shirt or shoes. The man would burst into people’s houses, walk into their kitchen, and take whatever food he wanted.

As a little girl, she was terrified of him. “I shouldn’t have been though,” she said. “My mother and aunts would say, “Hello,” call him by name, and then tell him, “Come on in.”

I grew up in a small town, too. I didn’t know any scary people, but I did know people who stood out as different in one way or another. Dare I say odd? Let me just say that I remember people who would have made great characters in a Charles Dickens novel.

Illustration entitled, “The Characters of Charles Dickens.” Courtesy Library of Congress.

As I consider the two men the ladies described on Wednesday and some of the “characters” I knew as a child, I wonder what it was like to be those people. Who got to know them as people? What were they like as children? What in their pasts influenced the people they became? What lessons could they have taught others?

The temptation to lump folks into categories has been around for a long time. It is easy to stereotype people, but, as I saw in class on Wednesday, someone who is scary to one child might seem funny to another. And someone who is scary to a child might seem harmless to a parent.

Sometimes people are quick to lump children into categories. However, after we take time really to learn a child, we might find that a child labeled slow would be better labeled thorough. A child labeled distractible might be better labeled creative. A child labeled incorrigible might better be labeled hurting.

When we peel off the labels and look past the idiosyncrasies, what we find underneath is a person for whom Jesus died, a person who fits into one of only two categories — walking in the light or walking in darkness. The first group are our brothers and sisters in Christ. The second need the good news about Jesus.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him
and yet walk in the darkness,
we lie and do not practice the truth;  
but if we walk in the Light
as He Himself is in the Light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus His Son
cleanses us from all sin.
1 John 1:6-7

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One comment

  1. This is so true! We have a tornado…everywhere he goes, he leaves a mess. But the boy is just amazing with electronics and mechanics. So we call him the engineer…and we’re working on cleaning up our “creations/inventions.” Pray for Momma… 😉

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