Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. Luke 8:30 (NRSV)
For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:26-27 (NRSV)
Labels. All kinds of labels can be applied to us. Some can be positive and others negative or even hurtful. Pastor, husband, father, grandfather, Lutheran, Anglo, South Dakotan and male are a few labels that would describe me. When I was growing up, I was sometimes identified as “one of the twins” a term I did not like because I much preferred to be identified by my name. However, the label that was the most destructive was being labeled as stupid. It was one I acquired in first or second grade and one that I have been dealing with all of my life. This coming Sunday we will be reading the story of Jesus healing the demon possessed man from Gerasenes (Luke 8:26-39). When Jesus asked the man for his name he responded with a label, legion. How sad! Labels have destroyed this man’s identity and he has simply become that demon possessed man. Labeling still happens in our world today. Grade school students have a knack of labeling other students with labels that are very destructive. “Stupid”, “Queer”, “Dummy” to name a few. But the labeling continues once people get to be adults. He’s just an alcoholic. She’s lazy. They will never amount to a hill of beans. Unfortunately, many people allow the labels others applied to them to control their life. Jesus also comes and labels us. No, that label is not a negative one. Jesus does not call us a hopeless sinner, evil, etc. Rather Jesus labels us as a “child of God”. Jesus gave the demon possessed man a new identity by casting out the demons and restoring him to his right mind and a place back in his community. Through the waters of baptism we also have received a new label and with it a new identity. Paul uses the imagery of being clothed in Christ. Others might see us negatively but when Christ looks at us he doesn’t see any of those negative labels. They have been covered over by new clothes. All Jesus sees is a precious child. As Jesus’ precious child he continues to work in our lives to remove the effects those negative labels have on us so that we might live a more joyous life.