The Labels People Give You
He was quite old when he taught me a profound lesson. He was part of our Explorers group–the oldest generation in our church. We meet on Wednesdays for a Bible study, for fellowship, and for planning impact on our community and church. He was a regular. On that day, I had returned from vacation, and they had pranked me! So, I decided to make a statement. With a pad of yellow sticky notes, I had written the word “Stinker” on each sheet and playfully applied the Post-it notes on each of them before I began our study. The morning was great fun, and afterward, Mr. Floyd walked up to thank me for what I had said.
Immediately following that morning gathering, I had an appointment and ran to meet my appointment for lunch. As I walked to the cashier’s stand, my lunchmate asked, “What’s ‘stinker’?” I really didn’t catch what he had said, and he reached to my back and removed the yellow note that had been on my back for the duration of the lunch hour. The “kind affirmation” of Mr. Floyd had actually been a ploy for pranking me. . .AGAIN! I laughed with embarrassing volume, leaving my curious lunchmate at a loss for words until I told him the full story!
What Mr. Floyd did in a fun, concrete way, other people in our lives attach to us with their words, thoughts, and opinions. As followers of Jesus, that’s a big deal because we are not just reflecting on our own values, behaviors, or character; OUR character reflects on HIM. I think that’s why our pursuit of integrity is so important. It’s not because we attempt to adopt legalism. The Gospel is exactly what allows us to leave that behind. But we are His witnesses, so our lives either honor or discredit Him.
This is not a new problem. In the first century AD, Peter gave this challenge to early followers of Jesus. Live in such a way that even when our world wants to accuse you of wrong your honorable behavior will be a testimony that will bring God honor. I want my neighbors to see the evidence of integrity even if they disagree with my faith. I want the server at the restaurant to see a kindness that would honor Jesus if she discovered I was His follower.
In the end, it’s the not labels we want to attach to ourselves that will influence people most. It’s the ones that they choose because of what they see. We don’t have the audacity to share our personal labels verbally, but if people did have those, what kind of label would THEY attach to us?