We all have a certain capacity – whether we push these boundaries regularly or not – to love people outside of our family or social level. To really know Jesus is to be challenged to love those who it would look bad to love.
Yet, even with this capacity, it amazes me how you and I are blind to our own disobedience compared to Jesus’ earthly example in the ways we do church and who we hang out with regularly. American Christendom looks more homogeneous and suited to the local social class or theological bent. In other words, it is more common to find a church full of folks who look like each other and agree on major points of theology than to find opposing viewpoints being addressed.
One of my great friends (who is a regular reader to this blog) talks to me about how he struggles to find a place in the local church for people like him who are skeptical or doubting scripture. He is a guy who really values community and relationships but can’t really find a church that is comfortable with his questions.
And, I don’t feel like his questions are particularly biting or even come from a place of wanting to divide or hurt. I think he really wants a place where he can struggle and disagree without feeling like he is threatening anyone. \Simply put (I’m probably speaking for him more than I should), he wants have a community that will let him be who he is and still love him.
As of now much of the American church is a place for those who agree. Those who disagree or don’t know what to do with what what is being taught are let in with a wary eye hoping they won’t cause too much trouble. Or, many will be seen as “projects” when they really want to be seen as people.
I feel like this is less a criticism and more an observation and a finger pointing back to my own heart. Guys, we just aren’t great with loving folks who think differently. It threatens us and makes us build our walls higher and defend our theologies with more vigor.
Yet, I see our Lord doing something quite different. Regularly Jesus would go out of his way to walk straight through Samaria (the land of the people most Jews hated), healing them and making friends. In fact Jesus even made a Samaritan the hero of the story of “the Good Samaritan”.
Throughout scripture, God wants his people to be a kingdom of priests, being the very hands and feet of Jesus. Yet, when I look at Jesus and the way he dealt with people who might not agree with him, he seemed to give them the opportunity to know who he is and let them make the decision.
Christ didn’t keep the most savory company either, a vagabond group of dropouts who spent most of their time doubting, arguing, engaging in power grabs, and in one case – planning his own murder. Yet, he kept company with them and walked with them as they grew and changed.
Shouldn’t we allow the same level of patience and care with folks outside of the church that Jesus practiced? Is being “Christlike” only mean not cussing and being nice? Or maybe being like Jesus is opening our doors wide and trusting in the salvation he brought through the cross, giving us the privilege of loving without an agenda or fear that we might love the wrong person too much.
You see, Jesus cares about the people I want nothing to do with. It seems to be time for me to love some of those folks as well.