This past weekend, we heard a powerful message from Dr. Derwin Gray on how to step into mercy and peace. Peace is something that can seem elusive and far out of reach, even for Christians, but Dr. Gray reminded us we can find peace with others and within ourselves.
Dr. Gray challenged us to see people outside of their labels and to love them for who they are. He emphasized that being merciful requires us to “cross ethnic, cultural and religious barriers to help people.”
“That person is a human being made in the image of God!” he said. “Treat everybody like Jesus died for them, because He did, and if Jesus tasted death for everyone, we can love everyone.”
Isn’t that so much easier said than done? We live in a society where we’re comfortable assigning labels: Democrat/Republican, lazy/hard-working, wealthy/poor, professional/vocational. The problem with labels is that once they’re assigned, it becomes so hard for us to see that person outside of them. Dr. Gray tells us, “You and I will never love people beyond the labels we give them.”
Labeling others can bring division, and with division comes anger, resentment, and hatred. But what an example Jesus gave when telling the story of the Good Samaritan: the Samaritan didn’t help the wounded man on the side of the road because he thought he’d get something out of it; the Samaritan helped the man because he felt love and compassion for him.
We’re abundantly loved by Jesus, so much so that Jesus went to the cross and died for each and every one of us. In return, Jesus tells us that if we truly love Him, then we must also love others. If we want to regain our peace, that’s what we have to do. We need to see beyond the labels we’re tempted to give and recognize people as children of God.
So, where do we start? Here’s a suggestion: Write down the names of three people you feel are robbing you of your peace. They can be family members, neighbors, rivals, political figures—anyone. Then go down that list, and one by one, take the time to pray for that person. Pray you might see that person how God does: valued and loved.
Removing labels is a process, and it won’t be comfortable at times, but it’s necessary to find peace and healing. Church, we are called on by Jesus to love. If the world is going to change, it needs to start right here, inside the walls of our own buildings.