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Let me go ahead and ease your mind. This is not another post about one more person’s great and almighty opinion on the debate today. I have my opinions, of course. My guess is that you have yours. If you answered, “Yes, Courtney, I do,” then we just agreed. I don’t believe my specific calling in this blog is to convince you of anything politically or even morally. My calling here is to share with you the ways that God helps me to teach my children as we go in life according to Deu. 6 and how He speaks to my heart about His love for you and for me. So that’s what today’s post is about, and I didn’t really want to write it but knew I was being prompted to do so. I am not saying that this post is what your stance on today’s issue was about. Some reactions on both sides of today’s issue made me think about this. I have no one specific in mind, I promise. This was an opportunity to teach my children what I considered an important lesson about reaching people’s hearts. God has been working in both John and me over the last few years teaching us more and more on this subject and convicting us of past mistakes.

I was driving and thinking and that familiar Voice spoke to my heart today giving me words to speak to my children and a physical picture to help them actually see what our words, attitudes, and labels can do to others. It also provided a valuable lesson in Jesus’ heart for us when we are labeled by others. So when we arrived home today I pulled out the box our curriculum had arrived in and had the three older sit down. I told them that there were things being said that had reminded me of something important that I wanted them to understand. I talked to them about labeling people and how sometimes instead of getting to know someone personally we choose to put them into a group that separates us. We talked about what that means and how silly it is to decide what someone is like based on one decision or physical characteristic. We talked about how some labels are about right and wrong and some are about preferences. Some are important and some are trivial. Some are extremely hurtful and some are seemingly harmless generalizations. We talked about mistakes that we make and how sometimes we even sin in the same way over and over. How that is extremely sad and it would make it even worse if no one saw us as anything except that sin. One by one I had them get into the box and I closed the lid. I asked if they liked it inside the box and if it felt like I was listening to them or cared about them while they were in there. Then we chose a label like “you’re a brown shirter” and added that label to their time in the box. Needless to say, they didn’t think that was nice at all. Even though they chose the thing that caused us to label them, it was still hurtful. If they didn’t choose the label, it was also very hurtful.

After they had gotten out we wrote on the outside of the box different labels – everything from athletic, pretty, smart, dumb, nerd, rich, poor to homeschooler, Christian, or white-skinned. We talked about how funny it was to think you knew someone based on knowing something about them. I asked John if it would feel frustrating if everyone only called him “baseball player” when he has so many other interests and abilities, or if since I can struggle with my patience what if everyone called me “impatient.” If they didn’t care what my name was or what else I did, just yelled that one thing at me. Liar, cheat, hurtful person, etc. So then I asked if I put them in the box and yelled loudly at them that I loved Jesus while yelling their label at them what they would think about Jesus. We returned to Matthew 5 verses we have memorized and talked about how what we do should be salt, light, and bring glory to God. We talked about how extremely important God’s truth is and how much it hurts us and others when we sin. How we all have to have forgiveness and often don’t realize we are wrong about things, especially if we don’t know Jesus.

Then I asked them what if instead of that, I pulled you out of the box, called you by your name (which meant I had to know your name), not your label, and told you I loved you so much, that Jesus loved you and that I thought something you were doing was going to hurt you very much. That it made me want to cry to think that a choice like that might hurt you and then I was willing to listen to you speak. How people are much more likely to hear you crying out for them than against them. Then I asked them if God’s truth was like a box that we had to stay inside to make Him happy. We looked at Scripture and saw that God’s truth was freedom. Matthew 5:14 says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” God’s ways are not a box to put around ourselves or others but a hill to help us shine out love and light to others from a better place than we did before. His ways never change and are always right and always make everyone and everything better. That the most important thing was always, and in everything, helping people to know Jesus and His love for them.

Then we prayed and asked God to forgive us for our boxes, to help us to see as He sees, to cry out for his help in loving others even when they put us in a box of labels. We thanked Him for His forgiveness and that when He looks at us He doesn’t see our sin but sees Jesus covering us. That He offers that to every, single person. We asked that He could use us to pull others out of boxes and to share His love with them.

Then we took that box with all those labels written on it and ripped it apart. (This was their favorite part.) We said that Jesus is not about boxes and labels but about teaching each of us to love Him and to obey His perfect ways. Then He rips apart our sins and sets us free with His truth. That He wants to do the same for others and we must show them how free the love and laws of Jesus Christ really are! May we show those around us that we are cities on a hill, not shovers into a box.

Whatever our stance on the things that divide us, may we always be unified on the one that matters most. People matter to God. If we had to be right before He cared about us, we would all be doomed. Someday there will be labels, but just two. “With Him” and “Not With Him” and I assure you I will have no right whatsoever to be any part of that labeling. I won’t even be on my feet but on my face. Without Him we are all in a box, a pit, an impossible black hole of our self-serving, self-absorbed sin. With Him I am a city on a hill! Why would He choose to use me to light the way for another? I don’t know. Because He is that full of grace and mercy. For “me.” For “them.” Or better yet, how about for “US.”

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