What Label Boxes You In?

What Label Boxes You In?

“…Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (Lk 19:5)

My son kept a wooden Zacchaeus doll underneath his bed when he was little. He couldn’t sleep unless it was there. It was something he created in church school when he was 5 yrs old. I’ve never understood why adults love teaching this story to children. They emphasize the fact Zacchaeus was small, like children, but that guts the story of its power.

The story makes a strong statement about economic justice and equality. It would be more appropriate, and funny, to have comedian Eddie Murphy teach the lesson. He could use his character from the Saturday Night Live skit, “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood.” I can see Mr. Robinson saying, “Listen children, Jesus came to town and The Man was up in a tree…” Okay, it might not be appropriate, but it sure would be funny.

Yesterday, the story of Zacchaeus was played out in a phone conversation I had with a friend. He is a Republican, and a future guest on the podcast. As we were speaking, he said, “I’m really tired of people calling me an angry racist and the like just because I am Republican. Republicans love people and want them to have prosperity.”

When he was finished, I replied,“Yes, and I’m tired of being told only unemployed minorities on welfare vote Democrat. And people who are socially liberal don’t believe in people taking responsibility for their actions.” We were both reflecting on the burden of labels.

Zacchaeus is a person who is labeled. As a tax collector, he is labeled as one who stands outside the grace of God. Eventually, Jesus will also be labeled the same way by the religious leaders of his time. When Jesus invites Zacchaeus down from the tree, he removes the label of division. He makes the bold statement, no one is beyond the grace and love of God, no matter how you view them. During this time of emotional unrest, it serves as a great reminder of how we should engage our neighborhoods. No one stands outside the grace of God.

Click to read: Luke 19: 1-10

Reflection Questions: 

What burden do you carry as a result of a label? How do you burden others with a label?  How can we curb hatred and violence, but still proclaim grace?


Photo Courtesy of Unsplash.com and Senwai Deen

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