A friend of mine recently interviewed for a job in Alabama. As he met with several different groups in the church, there was only one question that came up every single time: “Auburn or Alabama?”
The funny thing is that they weren’t searching for a correct answer. There were plenty of fans of both teams. What they were searching for was a choice. It did not matter what side he selected; it simply mattered that he chose. One or the other. There would be no middle ground.
We live in a world that operates in binary terms: In and out. Right and wrong. Yes and no. Black and white.
It’s why we see more name-calling than issues being discussed. Why our news channels are full of pundits screaming opinions past one another. Why our power structures and politicians violently defend old systems instead of entertaining new ideas.
It’s why we label each other and dismiss those who do not agree with us.
Christians are not immune. Too often we see the world as one where there are only two options available. Either you are in or you are out. Holy or secular. We take a world that is full of gray and try to fit it into simple black and white categories.
In Matthew 5, Jesus speaks about some of these lines we like to draw. As he is speaking to the mostly religious crowd, he says:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:43-48)
The message is pretty clear: God does not show favorites. His blessings fall on those who are in and those who are considered out. The clean and the dirty. Everyone is included.
It’s such an obvious message, but an oh-so-radical one in its day. And it still is.
We see Jesus living this ethic out in the flesh. He reaches over cultural lines to bless the Canaanite woman and the Samaritan woman at the well. His miracles even extend to the servants of Roman soldiers.
We draw lines; God leaps over and around them.
We exclude others; God brings them back in.
Earlier this week Trevor wrote on the power that is available when we recognize that God is for us.
God’s desire is for everyone to experience his love and grace. It’s a powerful message that Christians should be shouting from the mountaintops. But too many times we get caught up in an “us vs them” narrative. It affects how we interpret history. It affects how we read the Bible. And it affects how we treat one another.
But here is the simple truth we need to sink in fully: God is not on your side.
God is not for me at the exclusion or detriment of anyone else. He’s not on your side. He’s not on my side. He’s on our side.
He’s not just for me. God is for
As Christians, we are supposed to be the people who are for everybody. Especially those who are not Christians, those outside our lines and in the margins. We should be at the forefront ready to jump over those lines and include the outsider.
Because we all have our hangups. We’re all dirty in some way, no matter how much we’d like to hide it. We’re all addicted to something. We’re all in need of recovery and grace.
In reality, we’re all both insiders AND outsiders.
And part of what Jesus came to free us from is more than our own sins and hangups, but a binary system that seeks to separate and exclude us from each other. Jesus came to save us from our parties and lines as much as he did from our shortcomings.
So today may we all experience the power of US. May our lines be blurred so that we see each other as Jesus sees us. May we escape the binary systems of the world and all bask in the love of a God who blesses us all even when we don’t deserve it.
Because we’re all in the same boat.