• Gary Moyer

Labels and Ingredients

Updated: Feb 9

I was standing in the checkout line at my favorite international supermarket when I saw them. Large bags of jackfruit chips. They make jackfruit chips? You need to understand that jackfruit is one of my favorite tropical fruits in the whole world. Jackfruit chips! And they were on sale at a really good price.

No…wait a minute. At that price they’ve got to have added sugar and a ton of salt. They’re probably junk. Too bad. Forget it. How disappointing.

Waiting in line longer than I had expected, my gaze fell back on the bags of jackfruit chips on the shelf. Why not? I have time to kill. I picked up a bag and read the ingredients: jackfruit and a hint of vegetable oil. That’s it? No tons of salt? No added sugar? I was more than pleasantly surprised; I was excited. I bought a bag and I was not disappointed. They were really tasty and healthy to boot! What I had haphazardly labeled as junk food, upon closer inspection turned out to be a much higher-quality product. Imagine if I had not picked a bag off the shelf and taken time to read the ingredients.

I was reminded of John 9 where the man Jesus had healed of blindness was being grilled by the Pharisees. “This man is not from God,” they conjectured, “for he does not keep the Sabbath.” (vs.16) At least He didn’t keep it the way they thought it should be kept. The Pharisees had mislabeled Jesus.

Label: Not of God

Ingredients: God Himself!

Later in this pharisaical fiasco, as the formerly blind man tries to convince his accusers that they had mislabeled Jesus, they rail back at him: “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” (vs.34) Then they threw him out. More mislabeling. Because he had been born blind, their convenient, haphazard theology pegged him as more sinful than themselves. In reality they knew very little about this man who had suffered blindness for years, but their assumptive label helped them justify casting him away.

How many times have I simply labeled people, rather than taking the time to read the ingredients of their lives, to understand who they really are and what’s made them who they are? How many times have I thought or said:

Democrats are all...

Republicans are all...

Muslims are all…

Catholics are all…

Liberal Adventists are all…

Conservative Adventists are all…

Whites are all…

Blacks are all…

Cops are all…

Vegans are all…

Assigning these labels allows me to shrug off spending time getting to know someone who I might not agree with or am too busy to minister to. Since I know what “those types of people” are like, I don’t have to bother with them. They’re disqualified from receiving my attention. Conveniently categorized, I can leave them on a shelf somewhere, like I almost did with the jackfruit chips. And when I do, I miss the blessing.

The truth is, those Democrats, Republicans, Muslims, Catholics, etc. all have much more in common with me than I recognize—ingredients I can only find in the fine print. Their lives contain joys, fears, needs, strengths, weaknesses, talents...just like me. Just like me they have been created in the image of God, yet marred by sin; loved by God, and the reason for his substitutionary death on Calvary. Just like me they need to be understood in meaningful, loving relationships. But when I slap a label on them, meaningful, loving relationships stay on the shelf.

Enter the Savior. John 9:35 says: “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Verse 38 then records the man responding, “Lord, I believe.” The one whom the Pharisees had labeled and cast out, Jesus took the time to search for until he was found. And the categorized castaway found a meaningful, saving relationship with the One who tears off labels and reads the ingredients of the heart.

Thankfully, this story had a happy ending. And the beautiful thing is, with Jesus living in each of us through the Holy Spirit, we who have the eyes of God—to see past the labels—also have the ingredients of many more happy stories to come.

— by Gary Moyer, VP of Administration

Scripture references are from the NIV.

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