John 10:10 —  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

I was almost arrested because of a box of animal crackers.  Actually, I don’t think I would have been arrested, but it was as close as I have ever come.  I was 15 years old and went grocery shopping with some friends.  We were bored teenagers so we decided the best time to go to the store was at midnight on a Friday.  Before I go further let me say: Friday at midnight is not the best time to go grocery shopping!  We also chose the one grocery store that had a disgruntled security guard who had a deep mistrust of five teenage boys out past their curfew.

As we strolled through the aisles and picked out food items, we began to notice that the security guard was following us. We hadn’t done anything wrong so we had no reason to suspect something was about to happen.  We were heading to the frozen pizza section when she finally approached us.  In a very stern voice she informed us that we needed to get our stuff and leave the store.  Then she pointed at me and said, “If I see YOU open anything else in the store, I will arrest you for shoplifting.”  I had barely touched anything in the store, so her accusation caught me off guard. She walked away and we continued to pick out items and laughed and joked about how weird her confronting us had been.

By the time we reached the front of the store, a group of stock boys had been assembled as back up for our new friend.  We were very confused by the gathering until the security guard stepped forward.  Pointing at me, she declared, “That’s him!”  She accused me of opening a box of animal crackers, and also said I had called her a bad name.  My friends immediately came to my aid.  Our opinion was that she was lying and crazy, but we had very little going for us because she was an adult and we were just kids.

We stood there for a few minutes arguing.  Eventually, we tried to cut our losses and just leave, but that wasn’t enough for the security guard.  She took me to the manager’s office and called the police.  She said I was going to go to jail for shoplifting.  Keep in mind I hadn’t even left the store.

She told me to just confess and I would be let go.  I didn’t want to confess because I really hadn’t done anything.  I had been falsely accused.  I knew I hadn’t done what she said, but no one was listening.

The funny thing is I actually apologized to her to try to get her to let me go.  I thought that maybe if I just agreed to what she said about me I could be set free.  I knew it wasn’t true, but I accepted it because I was scared.  It didn’t actually help.  It just made me feel worse, because I had given into the lie.  In the end, my friend’s dad came and defended me.   He knew who I was and fought for me when I had basically given up.  I had to pay for the animal crackers and then was allowed to leave.

You probably haven’t been “almost arrested” for “not” opening a box of animal crackers, but it is very possible that you have been accused of something you didn’t do.  Maybe you’ve been called names or told you are someone you aren’t.  We collect all sorts of labels, and most of them are completely false.  Maybe you have been branded as the troublemaker or a failure.  All the while, you think “That isn’t me!”  It is possible you have given in.  It is possible you have let these false things become part of who are you.  You know it isn’t true, but you feel helpless.

This week you have the opportunity to let go of the false identities that try to hold you down.  God wants you to know that you are not the negative things people say you are.  Jesus treated everyone with love.  He extends that love to you as well.  You have the change to change!

Will you let God speak love in your life today?

If you don’t struggle with negative labels, you probably know someone who does.  Maybe you know someone who has all but given up and they desperately need someone to defend them.  You could be the person who speaks healing into that person’s life.

Many of the people we meet on the mission field deal with being told they are a certain way.  The poor in many areas of the world are treated as through they are less important than people with money and power.  In many cases the people we encounter have given in to the lies told about them.  You have the chance to be the speaker of life to someone today.  A simple word of encouragement or even a smile could speak volumes to someone.

Will you speak love into someone’s life today?

Day 5 of 6 from the 2014 Mission Discovery Devotional