“I was trying to find the right time to tell you something that’s been bothering me,” my sister Janet said.
“Well, you just made this the right time by telling me you are looking for the right time. So what’s on your mind?” I asked.
Stop the Harsh Labels
“I’ve been reading your blogs, and I don’t like it when you refer to yourself as a sinner.”
“I’ve known you all your life, and you were a good kid who has become a good husband and father. I’m proud of you. Calling yourself a sinner is such a negative and harsh label.”
“But that’s who I believe I am. In fact, we are all sinners. We do things we know we shouldn’t do. We hurt people we are close to. We live with guilt from having done these things,” I explained.
“To label yourself a sinner is so heavy and negative. It doesn’t help you to have this view of yourself,” she said.
We went round and round in the conversation which got a bit tense. This went on for 30 minutes. In the end, we simply disagreed.
If I was right in my thinking, why did the conversation bother me so much?
I just couldn’t let it go. After all, my sister loves me and wants the best for me. I know it wasn’t easy for her to bring this up.
Recognize Your Change
I met with my friend Cortney who leads the Tuesday lunchtime Bible study I attend in midtown. I recounted the conversation I had with Janet and asked him what he thought.
He said, “Your sister is right. You shouldn’t label yourself a sinner.”
“But I sin so therefore, I’m a sinner.”
“I agree you still sin. As do we all. But the label of ‘sinner’ does not apply to you anymore. Before you accepted Jesus you were a rebel. So God called you a sinner. You weren’t in a relationship with him. You were on your own path. Then you repented of your sins and came back to God through Jesus. Now he calls you a child of God.”
“So I should call myself whatever God calls me. Is that what you are saying?” I asked.
I do have a tendency to be hard on myself, and I compound the issue by negative labels. Now whenever I refer to myself with a negative label, I am going to ask myself, “Is this what God is calling me?”
Thanks, Janet, for pointing this out to me.
Also published on Medium.