For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of . . . sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds (Matthew 11:18-19).
We can be good at labeling. Labeling can be helpful when we are trying to get things organized. Unfortunately, labels don’t work well when we are trying to organize people. Those of us in religious circles have been pretty guilty of using labels for people. In doing so we have hurt and condemned others. I wonder why we do this?
Jesus knew about being labeled. It might surprise us to know how Jesus was labeled. Our scripture tells us about the label Jesus was given. He says, “Look, John came neither eating or drinking and people said, ‘see, he has a demon.’ And I have come eating and drinking and folks have said, ‘look, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’”
Jesus understood about labels. He was known as one who liked food and enjoyed a drink.
It is not the picture most of us have of Jesus. It is not the picture of little baby Jesus, meek or mild. Nor is it the picture of Jesus mild mannered who died on a cross. It is probably not the first picture most of us get of Jesus. He enjoyed eating and drinking. So, what do we do with that?
Do we let it bother us? You could. Do we allow it to get us so frustrated that we write off Jesus? You could. That is what the ones who labeled Jesus wanted to happen. They wanted to discredit him so much, that they labeled him. They named him the way they wanted to, so they could get us to write him off.
You might say to me, “Scott, that sounds like an early version of a political campaign. The democrats say something bad about the republicans, or vis-a-versa all to sway opinions.” I would say, “I think you are on to something.” That is what is happening.
Has it ever happened to you? Have you ever been labeled in a way that hurts? Or is unfair? How did it make you feel?
I love Jesus’ response to being labeled. He said, “Well, wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” In the end he is saying, “Those people who really know me. Those people who are touched by God through me. They know who I am and how I have been living. The proof is in the pudding.”
Whenever I feel as if I have been labeled unfairly, I try and remember these words. I try and work hard and live faithfully, trying to honor God with my life and my actions. It doesn’t mean that I am perfect. But it is a reminder that I am working at being faithful. What about you? Are you working at being faithful?
We are living in a challenging time in our denomination. We are seeing all types of labels being passed around. I am proud to stand in our United Methodist tradition, where the historic faith is claimed and lived. Where we have a commitment to missions around the world and in our neighborhood. Where we are seeking to welcome all as children of God. Where people are invited into a relationship with Jesus that helps them live in our world.
On this day, if you find yourself tempted to label others, I want to urge you to pause. Ask yourself, what is the need within me that is causing me to put someone else in a box?
When you find yourself unfairly labeled, as you work through the hurt and the pain of it, don’t forget to turn to Jesus and be encouraged by his words. Live faithfully. Touch others with God’s love and grace. After all, the proof is still in the pudding.
May God help us live lives that are faithful. Amen.
Loving God, you have called us to be faithful. Yet we live in a world of challenges, where faithfulness isn’t always easy. Teach us to look to you. Help lead us into a better space for our lives, for our relationships, for our faith community. Give us the courage we need for this day. In the hope that Jesus offers us, Amen.