love, like me

Let me share a short story about Jesus with you:

And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 9:10-13

I’ve been having many conversations about what it means to be in community with people. To love people.  Especially those outside our lifestyle, culture, our compatible Enneagrams or general understanding.  What is discrimination, how the word has evolved now into its deeply hurtful meaning.  Previously, discrimination meant only recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.  And then, as humans, we regularly decide, over and over and over, that different means bad or unworthy or ugly or out of place.  Now, discrimination is the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, religion, age, culture, sex, style.  We see the poor use of discrimination ALL. OVER.  I don’t need to list where.

But I do want to discuss one place. The church.  I’m not talking about how your pastor relates to the people in the community, rather how the people in the community relate to the church that they choose.  We go to churches based on finding like-minded people, or we want to “be fed”, or perhaps we want more friends in our age group and it comes down to either a church or bars (personally, why not church in a bar??).  The question that keeps rolling around and around in my head and heart: is this how it is supposed to be?  As we church-hop, we use the old-fashioned discrimination: this church worships with this music, while this one chooses to practice infant baptism, while this one encourages declaring and claiming.  We recognize and understand the difference between one and the other.  But perhaps we look at our brothers and sisters in our various denominations with too much of that second understanding of discrimination: unjust treatment based on differences.

I was raised in a Roman Catholic church by charismatic parents who didn’t (and don’t) believe in all that the Catholic Church teaches.  In college, I began attending a Vineyard community in Holland and was a “Stakeholder” there until our move.  If you don’t know much about one or the other (and I mean really know versus what you think based on your distant interpretation), I encourage you to look into them.  There is great beauty and reverence in each group of Christ-followers.   My deep engagement in the different communities brought me to a great appreciation for the many faces of American Christianity.  As an upper teen, I began to question the necessity of such division though in the current Church.   I’m not just talking about denominational differences either: the Church is separated by race, socio-economic levels, food preferences, worship preferences, the list goes on and on and on…

Back in June, I co-taught at our old church with my mentor.  We spoke about unity.  That sermon still simmers in me almost daily.  In looking at the Old Testament use of the Hebrew word for unity, “Yachad”, I was struck by the use in Psalm 19:9:

“The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.

The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them (yachad) are righteous”

 All of God’s laws, in unity, are righteous.  We cannot piecemeal together a story of truth, or grab pieces that we like and toss the others.  And as I thought about God’s people, all people really, I was challenged in that we cannot grab hold of the people in the Church that we like and toss the others.  God’s word, and God’s law, and the Covenant, Old Covenant fulfilled by the New Covenant, gathered and glorified as a whole are righteousness, are completion, are beauty beyond all compare.  I believe this is what God’s desire is for the Church.  That in its unity we find righteousness.

So let’s look beyond the division of denomination to the division of persons.  Our culture teaches us how a person is to look or how a person is to act.  But that’s just culture.  When it comes to morality or law, I believe we are given Scriptural understandings of right and wrong.  But the Christian faith leaves much room for cultural variation.   In fact, I would say we are encouraged in Scripture to dive right in to the cultures and lives variant from our own as Jesus and Paul were prone to do.

I was recently encouraged to be immersed in the ways, works, and words of Jesus (Thanks Jo Saxton!).   I’ve been reading through the Gospels, slowly, but thoroughly soaking them up.  Return with me to the story I shared at the beginning of my word-vomit-of-a-post:

And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

I also recently heard someone say that your friends need you most not when they’re right but when they’re wrong.  Not when Matt9imgthey’re joyful, but when they’re full of sorrow.  If we only pursue relationship with those like us, considering the others to be “less than”, I think we’ve lost t
he message of Christ.  I am not saying that each of us should go out and become besties with the woman we don’t like  because she’s the woman we don’t like, but I beg you, begin to tear down the walls that you’ve created and be open the possibility that you COULD be besties with the woman you don’t think you like.

Or maybe.  Considering that God would call you into a church community with people that carry different theological beliefs than you (ya know, beyond the Creed theological beliefs).

Or maybe.  Considering that God would want you to dialogue with your family member who dresses and adorns differently than you.

Because when I look at Jesus, I can see no excuse for not inviting people into our life.   For not welcoming those who aren’t comfortable with our lives  as we similarly  cancarry discomfort in theirs.  So come with me and look at Jesus.  Pursue a life of mercy.  Our Teacher initiated and reciprocated relationship with the “less thans” and “outsiders” of his time.

So know the words.  Imitate the ways.  Believe in and observe His works, then, now, always, in those like you and those not.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8



“I praise you, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to the infants.  Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in your sight.”

Matthew 11:25

Reis Eliana : July 2014

Lord, I beg thee.  Make me humble like an infant, on my knees reaching for yours in submission and surrender and total dependence on your revelation and provision.  Help me to not raise myself by stepping on others based on anything—on anything!!  Let me see each person through the eyes of your heart and not the lens of my culture and own selfishness.  Let it be so. 

 

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