“He sits and eats with them!” – That was the main issue the grumbling religious leaders had with Jesus. They despised how he turned sermons into meals. Sinners into friends. Morons into apostles.
They had no problem with him the Rabbi. They were not too concern with the miracle worker. What they hated the most was the closeness.
His proximity to the people was dangerous. This friend of sinners had to die!
In their prideful worldview, these scholars believed that relating to the sinful meant contamination. They loved preaching to the crowds, but they hated the individuals in it.
Naturally they called Jesus a glutton and a drunkard… because those were the people he was spending most of his time with. And he did not seem concern with changing their behavior (which is righteous) he seemed more interested in feeding with them, healing them, forgiving them (which is enabling).
They could not understand how a man who claimed to be God himself, could be so acquainted with humanity. So much so that he smelled like them, sat with them, kept choosing them.
And that is still the greatest barrier. We the church use too much them language.
We watch the news and stay disconnected. Everyone on the screen is a “them”. We hear about the riots in Baltimore and it’s them. We see the devastation in Nepal and feel sorry for what happened to them. Pass the homeless on the street and have an opinion about them.
Them illegals. Them looters. Them poor people. Them in Baltimore.
But it’s time for the church to become what it was always meant to be… us.
God so loved the world. You and I, and them included. And the gospel is undeniably, always, us. Jesus made us a family. Included us into his inheritance. Loved us to the end.
[bctt tweet=”It is fashionable to talk about the poor. It is not fashionable to talk with them. Mother Theresa”]
I have been reading and following the news from Baltimore this last week. I feel for the businesses that have been destroyed, the churches that have burned and the lives that have been lost. And I have an opinion about the rioters. I have an opinion about the police. I have an opinion about how the government handled the situation. I have an opinion about how the media reported it all.
But all I am doing is seeing all those involved as them. And like the Pharisees of old, I feel comfortable preaching to them, but still fear becoming them.
This is literally both the simplest and most complicated aspect of the Christian faith. The gospel in its purest form; Jesus left the throne to serve us all.
Our privilege is to do the same.
Your throne might not political or spiritual, but you have one. We all do. A place of influence, a domain where we rule. True kindness is leaving those kingdoms, for the sake of the ultimate one.
I have not been to Baltimore yet, but there is a community here in Raleigh whose issues are alike to theirs. They share similar confusion, similar injustices, similar loves and hates. So we are being intentional. Our church family is leaving the comforts of preaching from afar, for the glory of sitting close to them.
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. – Jesus
We have to understand that humanity began inside an “us”. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit said in Genesis, “Let us create man in our image and likeness.” The whole plan was family and community. They could not duplicate anything but.
Later, in the tower of Babel, pride and sin separated the tongues. It segregated us into groups and class, cultures and styles, into them and us.
Variety is beautiful, but Jesus came to save from Babel. And when the Holy Spirit came upon the church they began to speak in other tongues. Heavenly tongues, earthly tongues, different tongues. And the power of Babel was destroyed.
Jesus didn’t come to rescue us so we could huddle into uni-colored buildings, he came to make us one with him (and each other) forever.
We keep trying to do good deeds to satisfy a spiritual quota, but the only way to truly see transformation is by turning the broken into good friends. To become one with their pain, with their suffering, as Christ did with ours. Compassion is not just an emotion that makes us feel pity, it’s a Godly invitation. It’s the call to do it like God himself did it: to come closer, to embrace their experience, to die for their benefit. As missionary Heidi Baker likes to say, “Love looks like something” (and you should read her incredible story in Compelled by Love: How to change the world through the simple power of love in action).
Paul encouraged the church in Rome to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.“
Yes, our opinions are important and valid; they’re just not necessary. Social media allows us to “get in the action” without ever getting into the actual action. We get to talk about, write about, blog about what we see and hear, but we forget to listen, to touch, to connect.
We could spend hours talking about who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong. And most people would have valid arguments that could sway others from one point to another.
But our opinions are just that, opinions. And I am realising more and more that even when they are sincere, they do nothing more than add to the millions of opinions that are already out there.
But what if we used the energy of opinions and turned it into action? Into actual engagement. Movement and activity. Friendship and joy.
What if we associated with the lowly and stopped trying to be wise in our own sight?
It has been impossible to contain the hundreds of beautiful stories that are coming out of Baltimore. There have been multiple pastors and churches that have decided to transform pain into unity. Injustice into service. I am moved by the force of grace that has invaded Baltimore after the riots. And they are showing us a better way.
I hope to shut up for a second and listen to their sermon. It’s not being preached with words and opinions, but with brooms and marches and prayer.
The religious spirit says to preach from afar to the people in Baltimore. The Spirit of Christ is eating with them.
Now find your Baltimore, and choose what to do with them.
“The strategy of Jesus is not centered in taking the right stand on issues, but rather in standing in the right place—with the outcast and those relegated to the margins.”
― Gregory J. Boyle
*I seriously recommend his book: Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion
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And if you have an opinion, comment below. Always love to hear from you!
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