Welcome to Labelius – where you can be whoever you’re labeled to be. 

The well-lit sign stood proudly on the side of the road leading into the bustling city. 

Once inside, it became obvious why Labelius had the motto – and the name – that it had. Every single person, without exception, was emblazoned with bright, bold labels. 

Some residents had several labels, some only a few, others just one. But most tried their best to conceal the ones they didn’t want on display while polishing and flaunting the ones that were popular.

Trendsetter. Loyal. Active citizen. High class. Leader. 

Lazy. Traitor. Outsider. Thief. Liar. Cheater. Murderer. 

Each resident also carried their own satchel full of stamps and ink pads. Whenever somebody did or said something out of the ordinary, all the others stopped in their tracks, opened their satchels and rushed to the offender. Out came the stamps, out came the ink pads, on went the labels. 

Life had carried on this way in Labelius for as long as any of the residents could remember. Collect the vogue labels, avoid the tasteless labels, viciously label those who deviate. Labels were life. Life was labels. 

Then came the day that no Labelian expected. Out from their midst came a gentle man who hadn’t the slightest interest in how he was labeled. Certainly he carried his own satchel, but when the flurries of mass labeling occurred he simply sat on the fringe and waited for the crowd to leave the offender. 

Once they were gone and the gentle man was left alone with the divergent Labelian, who was now breathless and barely recognizable for the tears and overabundance of labels, the gentle man sat down, opened his satchel and pulled out a basin of warm water and a white towel.

 Looking the labeled one in the eyes, the gentle man would slowly, gently and firmly wash the labels away. Some of the labels had been accurate. Some had not. Most had been deserved. But now all were gone. In their place was a new label bearing the gentle man’s name. 

This happened again and again. Soon the gentle man had a following. Some of the followers had been handpicked by the gentle man himself. Others had simply followed out of curiosity and a stirring in their hearts. But all had their multitude of labels (both good and bad) replaced by the gentle man’s name. 

Many of the man’s followers – and even the man himself – made the preposterous claim that he was the son of Labelius’ Founder. The one whose name most Labelians didn’t even dare to whisper, let alone keep alive in public memory. The Founder had built the city of Labelius long before it even had a name, before the Labelians had become so hopelessly steeped in the mire of labels and stamps. Now this man who defied tradition was claiming to be his son, even putting himself on equal footing with the Founder. 

As you can imagine, this sort of thing didn’t go over well with the Labelian officials. So, agreeing amongst themselves that the gentle man didn’t belong in Labelius after all, they began to plot. 

The next time they saw that man, the Labelian officials jumped him and furiously pounded him with stamps until he was drenched in ink from head to toe. But then came the most curious thing of all. All of the most horrible and condemning labels they had stamped him with simply wouldn’t stay on. When the officials took a step back to survey their work, their jaws dropped as they saw what labels did stick: Lion. Lamb. King. Servant. Despised. Rejected. Foretold. Judge. Savior. 

As if that wasn’t enough to confound the Labelian officials, they were shocked to discover new labels on themselves. Hypocrites. Wolves. Vipers. Blind. Condemned. 

This was the final straw. This so-called “king”, this rabble-rouser, this label-washer, could no longer remain in Labelius. For that matter, he could no longer remain anywhere. 

He had to die. Quickly, they exchanged the stamps in their satchels for vicious instruments of torture and killing. 

They roughly jostled the gentle man, that label-changer, that one who exposed their self-preservation, into a dirty ditch outside the town. With their words they mocked him, with their tools they performed deeds no Labelian had ever been subject to and left him for dead in the ditch outside Labelius. 

Where were his followers? Some hid, some ran, some tried desperately to hide the label bearing his name. All despaired, convinced they would never, could never see his gentle face gazing into theirs again. 

But just when it seemed all hope had been lost and it was certain that he was dead (three days under the ground without a pulse were more than sufficient), he surprised Labelius once again. Those labeled with his name were the first to see him fully alive, well and looking like the royalty he truly was. 

Go, he told them. Show the rest of Labelius who I have made you. Who I am. You will be labeled by them without mercy, labels without end. But no one can remove the label I have given you. The label with my name. Bear that label with pride, for it is the only one that matters. I’m going to make a new city for you to live with me. And then he went away, leaving his spirit in their hearts. 

The followers quickly discovered how true his words were. They were labeled without end, without mercy at the hands of the other Labelians as they went and told of the gentle and royal man. Most Labelians rejected these followers and their message. But some accepted it with joy. These ones found the man’s name on their forehead, placed there by his spirit.

As the years passed in Labelius, the changed Labelians fluctuated between pride in the gentle man’s label and fear of displaying it publicly. They often found themselves reverting back to their old ways of vicious labeling when they were disagreed with. Even mercilessly labeling their fellow changed Labelians with their own stamps, ignoring the only label that mattered – the gentle king’s name. 

It often looked – and was – quite messy, but the man reminded them through the spirit he had placed in their hearts that he was making them a new city. It was then that they threw away their satchels and polished up the label he had given them, wearing it proudly until he came back to bring them to their new home. 

Hebrews 13:12-14

Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the gate, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood. So then, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.