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Love Without Labels...

In my career as an Ironworker I always hated man camp jobs. Projects that were so far out in the boonies that it was necessary for the crew to actually live onsite. Most of the time I avoided them. The reasons were simple. First, it was hard to get a hold of daily needs such as booze and drugs. And secondly, living with a bunch of guys 24/7 was never my idea of a good time. Way too much testosterone! The only problem with this was camp jobs paid big money! And as I have stated in these blogs before money was what I worked for and pretty much lived for. So, every now and again I would head into the wilds to get the big payday in as short of a time as I could.

I think my least favorite of these jobs was outside of Pembina, North Dakota, not far from the Canadian border. The job itself was not bad being that it was a coal fire power plant. Lots of work, with over 500 guys ‘camping’ onsite. It was kind of a city in itself. The problem was and I did not know it before signing on, there had been a lot of trouble among the men. As happens even on regular sites carpenters and Ironworkers were at each other’s throats. But on this job, it had expanded into all-out war. Upon arrival I immediately heard that ten guys had been given their papers and sent down the road. The place was really like a war zone.

Even so it started out good for me, I ended up on one of my favorite structures. I was assigned to a ‘slip form’ crew that was working on one of the 120’ stacks that would tower over the landscape. Most guys did not like the endless work involved seeing that on this type of construction the rebar and concrete work are continuous. The form keeps raising without stop until it reaches the top. For me I liked staying busy. The bad thing was that I did not know that I had entered into the frontline of the battle that had been going on. It did not take me long to be drawn in. My crew boss stated in no uncertain terms that the carpenters were the enemy and if I was caught fraternizing with them, there would be consequences. Normally I wouldn’t have a problem with this. I had no need to be friendly with anyone, including the carpenters. That is until there was a fly in the ointment. A guy by the name of Jerry Reed.

Yeah, I know what you country and western folks are thinking, but no it was not THAT Jerry Reed. No, this guy was one of my true friends whom I had known since my days living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We had fly fished together, he had been one of the guys who had stood up at my wedding. Carpenter or not this was one of the most stand up dudes I had ever known. And there he was before me, big as life, grinning ear to ear. As happy as I was to see him, I knew this was not going to be good. Was I going to honor the battle lines or extend my hand to a best friend?

Every day we have choices to make. There are lines of conformity that our affiliations demand. Republican or Democrat. Conservative or Liberal. Atheist or Christian. The list is really endless. But the truth is the labels we allow to define us are also the chains that tend to bind us.

What is it today that really decides who and what you are? For so much of my life I hid behind the very labels I have been talking about and it was not until I met Jesus Christ that I was able to see that no matter what side of a line I stand the person on the other side is not an enemy. He or she is not someone to be ignored or chastised, they are to be seen through the eyes that see all of us the same, the eyes of Jesus Christ.

I know this sounds very ‘Kumbaya-ish’. We all gather in a circle holding hands and sing. Kind of like a Pepsi commercial. But that is not what I mean at all. The difference should be that a person who claims to follow Jesus should, through him living in us, see not the label or the hated thing, but the heart.

Of course, this is easier said than done. The preacher DL Moody said,

“We have to be emptied before we can be filled.”

And the Apostle Peter said this,

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;” (1 Peter 1 22-23)

It is a choice only we can make and only God can do. Choosing to submit in obedience to HIS truth we can find true brotherly love that supersedes the world of conflict Satan wants us to live in.

I made the choice back then to shake my friend's hand. Not out of Christian love. I did not have that in my heart back then. But simply because he was a good guy. I paid the price. Harassed by my boss and sniped at by my co-worker’s day and night. I did not last long on that job. Both Jerry and I ‘drug up’ on the same day. As we sat in the parking lot drinking a beer, he said something I still remember, “I wasn’t sure you would shake my hand that day. But I am glad you did. There will always be another job. But a good friend is hard to find.” I shook my head and agreed. We parted and went our separate ways. The war on that job went on until there were wild cat strikes and some real violence. Kind of a microcosm of our world today. I still struggle with it all but am blessed to have a Savior who does not. Try shaking the hand of a person you have problems with today. Let the love of Jesus override the conflict. You will find your heart is better for it

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