"Your name will no longer be Jacob but Israel, because you have struggled with God and humans and have overcome."
Humans use labels all the time. We label Tupperware dishes, cabinets, drawers, files, computer documents...the list goes on and on. Labels help us organize our lives, so we are never unsure about what something is or where it goes. Our knack for labeling doesn't stop with inanimate objects. We have a habit of labeling other people, too, and the motives are just the same: we want to know exactly who people are and where they belong in our lives.
While labeling someone "best friend" or "trusted co-worker" may not be a problem, our labels often far extend kind words and classifications. Labels like "liar," "lazy," "stupid," "rude," "snobby," and "annoying" often top the list of words we use to organize people in our minds and in our hearts. The worst part of this habit is that when we use words like these to describe other people, we aren't always pinpointing who they are. Actually, most of the time, we are simply identifying them with something we saw them do.
In the book of Genesis, we learn about two brothers: Esau and Jacob. These boys were twins: Esau born first, Jacob clinging to his brother's heel. Jacob's name labeled him immediately: "under cutter," "usurper," "deceiver." He lived up to his label. He took his brother's birthright, deceived his father to gain the firstborn's blessing, and ran away knowing he was guilty. Many years later, on a night that would change his life forever, he literally wrestled with God (see Genesis 32.) He found himself face-to-face with the One whose presence embodied the exact opposite of his label "deceiver." It was there, in the dead of night, facing one of the greatest physical challenges of his life, that his label was finally changed. God looked at him and said, "I have seen your struggle, and I know who you really are. You are not a Jacob, but an Israel." God changed Jacob's name; He changed his label.
Just as God saw the truth in Jacob, He sees the truth in you and me, and He sees the truth in the people we plaster labels on. We categorize via action; God classifies according to the heart. As people who seek after God's heart, we, too, should look at others in a different light. We are doing those around us no favor by labeling them something other than who God says they are. God's grace and His love says we are more than the labels the world gives us, but we must understand that privilege isn't just for us. It is for every person. Pray that God would show you how He sees others. Pray for your eyes to be opened to the unjust labels you have given others. Change the way you categorize people in your life. Stop looking at their actions, and begin to seek out who they really are according to their Creator.