SHE IS A SINNER
T. PIERCE BROWN
In Luke 7:39 we find, “Now when the Pharisee that had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have perceived who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him, that she is a sinner.” The Pharisee did what most of us do. His label of the woman as a sinner was so big that he could not see beyond the label. The woman, who in loving, penitent faith washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, and dried them with her hair was, to him, just a sinner.
I still remember my shocked surprise when one of my favorite professors in graduate school said, “Whatever you say a thing is, it is not.” When it eventually soaked in, I realized that he was expressing a profound truth that I already knew, but the implications of which I had never properly considered. That truth can be stated in several different ways, such as, “The map is not the territory” or “The word is not the thing it represents.” Whenever we see a person react to a label one has attached to a person rather than to the person, we see the need for understanding the principle my professor was trying to teach.
This principle is especially important for parents and teachers to know, but even if you live alone and seldom come in contact with another, you may profit by an awareness of the truth that whatever you say a thing is, it is not. For example, you may say, “I am a failure.” Many persons have felt this way, some even to the point of suicide, when what they had done was to fail a particular thing, sometimes only one examination on one subject.
I know a woman who was impressed by her mother that she was no good and worth nothing. She dropped out of high school and acted most of the time for 30 years as if she were worthless. When I taught her that Christ did not die for trash and that she was worth more than all the gold in the world, she obeyed the gospel, went back and finished high school and college and now has one Master’s degree and two Doctorates.
When parents or teachers are tempted to say to a child in their care, “You are a bad boy” or any other negative statement, we want to impress upon you in the strongest way possible that the statement may have more far reaching implications and results than you imagine. It is far better to point out that a particular action was bad or inappropriate than it is to characterize the person that way. This is not only psychologically and pedagogically sound, it is theologically sound. We could show numerous examples from the Bible where a person was blinded to some truths, or made improper responses because he thought and spoke as the Pharisee in Luke 7 which we mentioned at the beginning of this article. One reason Jesus reacted to those who were labeled as publicans and sinners was because He looked beyond the labels to the person, and knew better than most that “Whatever you say a thing is, it is not” or “The label is not the thing labeled, no matter how accurately it may describe some aspect of that thing.” If parents and teachers will learn this principle and teach their children to think, talk and act with an awareness of its validity, many good things would happen.