I only remember a few things from the fourth grade, but one of those things is being assigned to the “yellow group”. I was attending a small Christian school and our teacher decided to break us up into two reading groups. Each group was assigned certain books to read and then would meet throughout the year to discuss those books. What quickly became clear to all of us was that the groups were not equal. The “blue group” consisted of the good readers and the “yellow group,” did not. To this day, I remember feeling surprised, angry, and ultimately embarrassed at being assigned to the “yellow group.” I had always thought of myself as a good student. But suddenly, I was a “yellow fellow”. Maybe I wasn’t the good student I had always thought I was?
There is no denying the power of labels. The labels we carry dramatically impact our sense of self and our understanding of our place in the world. While this is true throughout our lives, it is often painfully evident during our school years. In every school there exists a smörgåsbord of classic, ready-to-use labels. These include: “Athlete, Cheerleader, Geek, Shy kid, Clown, Weird kid, Brain, Hot, Dumb,” and of course the two biggies, “Popular” and “Unpopular”. Under each of these classic labels there exists an almost infinite variety of subtle and often sophisticated sub-labels.
There is no escaping labels. In fact, we need labels. Labels are needed for us to understand who we are and how we fit in this world. The critical question is whom do we allow to label us? I recently had it pointed out that in the manufacturing world, the only ones who have a legitimate right to label objects are those who make it, those who purchase it, and those who own it. While it’s clear that this applies to manufactured goods like tools and clothing, I believe it also applies to people.
The great message of Scripture is that we have been created, we have been purchased, and we are owned. Jesus has done all three. Jesus is therefore, the only one who has a legitimate right to label us! Who Jesus declares us to be, trumps any and all labels given to us by parents, teachers, friends, enemies, the culture around us, and even ourselves. Jesus has more right and authority to label us than we have to label ourselves. He created us, he purchased us; we are His. And what does Jesus declare us to be? “Precious, holy, forgiven.” He has declared us to be “sons and daughters of the King, heirs and co-heirs with Christ.” He declares that we have “authority, purpose, and power;” that we are the “salt and light of this world” and that one-day, we will sit enthroned next to Him! With tender words he says that we are “the apple of God’s eye.”
The mission of Concordia Academy is to proclaim over and over again who Jesus says we really are. In this proclamation is freedom from both the lies and labels of this world, and from the destructive labels we assign ourselves in our guilt and shame. Jesus has given us a new name says Scripture. And in this new name, this label is freedom, joy, and life. I am not “yellow fellow,” I am a child of the living God!