Isaiah 49:1-7

Listen to me, O coastlands,
   pay attention, you peoples from far away!
The Lord called me before I was born,
   while I was in my mother’s womb God named me.
God made my mouth like a sharp sword,
   in the shadow of God’s hand God hid me;
I was made a polished arrow,
   in God’s quiver he hid me away.
And the Beloved said to me, ‘You are my servant,
   Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’
But I said, ‘I have laboured in vain,
   I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my cause is with the Lord,
   and my reward with my God.’

And now the Lord says,
   who formed me in the womb to be a servant,
to bring Jacob back,
   and that Israel might be gathered,
for I am honoured in the sight of the Lord,
   and my God has become my strength—
God says,
‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
   to raise up the tribes of Jacob
   and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
   that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’

Thus says the Lord,
   the Redeemer of Israel and the Holy One,
to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations,
   the slave of rulers,
‘Kings shall see and stand up,
   princes, and they shall prostrate themselves,
because of the Lord, who is faithful,
   the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.’

I am an extrovert by day, so I am always inviting people into conversation. Since most people, particularly in the South, have been trained in the reciprocity of dialogue, when I make an inquiry, the same one is made in return.

It doesn’t take long, however, to realize that in many instances, the other party is only asking questions to determine in which category I should be placed. He has already summed up parts of me based on my physical appearance. Now he is listening for more information that will help him affix a label. I don’t take it personally. Lots of people do it. It’s a by-product of the social climate in the world in which we live.

The majority of people today are only concerned with labels. Black. Woman. Fat. Ugly. Gay. Poor. Angry. Lesbian. Illiterate. Homeless. Unemployed. Prisoner. Transgender. Aggressive. Lazy. Thug.

Conversations are no longer used to capture a glimpse of another person’s heart. It’s all about labels which is unfortunate because the only thing labels do is define how we mistreat our neighbors. The more we dislike the label of another person, the more harsh our behavior toward our siblings. That seems to be the way of this world. But, it doesn’t have to be.

Labeling people doesn’t have to be a bad thing. God is a Labeler. God calls us many names: Strong. Honorable. Important. Light. Savior.

Then, let us strive to follow God’s example in our daily interactions with each other, that we may treat one another graciously, mercifully, lovingly. After all, the one label that sums up the whole of each person created as a member of the Human family is “Good.” 

 A Season of Becoming: Restoring and being restored for the transformation of the church and world

Rev. Dr. Denise Donnell

Denise is the Senior Faith Organizer for the Human Rights Campaign in Little Rock, Arkansas where she is working as an ally to the LGBT community, advocating for the total liberation of all God's children that we may all live the abundant life to which we have been called.

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