16 “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
17 ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; 19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said: “Once you label me you negate me.”; now while I did study Philosophy in college and in Seminary, I need to be honest that I was reminded of this saying when I was recently watching the movie “Wayne’s World” on Netflix. Regardless of where I heard it, the saying is still very relevant today…
Today, we often apply labels to ourselves and each other…and these labels can carry certain connotations, which can limit us…just as Kierkegaard (and Wayne) pointed out. By labeling ourselves and others ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’, ‘middle class’ or ‘working class’, ‘religious’, ‘spiritual’, ‘atheist’ or ‘agnostic’, ‘smart’ or ‘dumb’, etc., we are missing the bigger picture of who we are…and in many ways even setting expectations for how we will behave
One label that many of us have had to live with is ‘single parent’. This label has been used to paint us as irresponsible (for causing our children to grow up without both parents) or as saintly (for choosing to take on the role of single parent, and being so brave to do it ‘all on our own’). As Jesus pointed out in today’s gospel, labels do not always tell the whole story of who we are, as we are neither irresponsible or saints for being single parents…and many of us did not feel as if we had much of a choice in the matter…many of us felt as if taking care of our children was the ONLY choice that we could make.
In today’s culture labels can keep people apart, giving some an excuse to look down upon, and feel better than others…and these labels can stop us from moving forward together.
For example, look at how some kids are labeled as ‘geeks’, ‘jocks’, ‘bright’, ‘loser’ or ‘dumb’ (though other terms are usually substituted for these labels, to ensure political correctness); these labels are not just applied by other kids, but also by teachers and other authority figures. A label like ‘trouble-maker’ can follow our kids through their entire school life, and even further, shaping their self-esteem and their view of their place in the world; these labels can also separate us from each other, and even put us at odds…fermenting resentments rather than encouraging reconciliation, which could allow us to work together.
As single parents, many of us have had to live with labels which give others pre-conceived notions of who we are, how we live, and what our children are like. Often children of single parent households are labeled as ‘troubled’ or ‘damaged’ because their parents’ are no longer together. These labels can be damaging and unfair, and they can negate who we really are…limiting us to only being a single parent, or our kids to only being troubled…when we are all so much more dynamic than our labels!
As today’s gospel points out, it is our actions that separate us from these labels, that prove they are unfair, and for the most part, unfounded. By living our faith out-loud every day, and sharing that faith with others, we can be freed from any label that is put on us…free to follow the ministry of Jesus, to make God’s love known in this world that REALLY needs to know God’s grace!
The labels we give to ourselves and others are not often fairly applied, and they can negate us…as we more than a simple label…we have vibrant, dynamic and sometimes complicated (i.e. messy) lives, which we try to live in faith and gratitude for the many gifts we have been given through the sacrifice of Christ…ad we do our best to share this faith with our children and each other.
When all is said and done, there is only one label that counts, as we are: “Well-loved Children of God” and this label does not negate, but lifts us up!
Let us Pray:
Dear God, we thank you for the label “Child of God”; and that this is the only label that really matters for us…the only one that does not negate us, but instead lifts us up. Please help us live beyond the labels we give to ourselves and each other, as we live our faith out-loud one day at a time, sharing this faith with our children and with each other.