Our society may not rigidly observe a class structure like that of England a century ago but we certainly divide along lines of ‘have’ and ‘have not.’ In any group we know if we’re ‘in’ or ‘out,’ if we fit according to the often unspoken but very clear guidelines about who belongs. I have though much about the composition of Christ’s Church recently. Who is invited in? Do ALL find a place or do we not so subtly send signals to some that they do not fit in?
Sam Eaton wrote an article about why the young are abandoning the Church. One of his points, You Can’t Sit Here, keeps coming back to my mind. He explains – There is this life-changing movie all humans must see, regardless of gender. The film is of course the 2004 classic Mean Girls. In the film, the most popular girl in school forgets to wear pink on a Wednesday (a cardinal sin), to which Gretchen Weiners screams, “YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US!” Today, my mom said to me, “Church has always felt exclusive and ‘cliquey,’ like high school.” With sadness in her voice she continued, “and I’ve never been good at that game so I stopped playing.” The truth is, I share her experience. As do thousands of others.
Our world is not generally kind to those who are deemed ‘other‘ in some way.
Ask the kid with some disability about his daily experiences at school.
Ask the girl who does not meet the beauty code!
Ask the person whose business failed or that one with chronic disease.
Ask the elderly person who cannot move or think as quickly as they once did.
There is a profound and deep pain in the realization that you are ‘that’ person, the ‘invisible’ one, too broken to love.
And, in Christ’s Church, this should NEVER be true.
Jesus was always aware of the needs of those others considered ‘broken.’ He touched lepers. He engaged with those who were devil possessed. He let prostitutes into His company- a scandal, right? He looked up into a tree and saw a social outcast, a man short in stature, whose heart was aching for love, and He went to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner. As Jesus became more well-known, the rich came to Him, but He was not seduced by their money, power, or influence. He remained the champion of ALL.
His mission statement was not just for publication, He lived it. Quoting Isaiah, He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19, NLT) His care for people went far beyond being ‘nice.’ His touch, His words, His life communicated ‘you are loved, a person of worth.’
Our call is to that radical Gospel. We are to love like He did. And, we will only if there is an ongoing experience of the Holy Spirit that makes us tender, hopeful, and forgiving. Too many Christians develop a romantic notion of ministry. They are going to feed the hungry, house the homeless, love the orphan – and they do, for about 6 months. When they find that the pit of human need is bottomless, that people seldom respond with gratefulness, that sinful human nature is ugly and mean, they quit and retreat to their safe group of like-minded individuals. When ‘service’ loses it luster and excitement fades, they quit and go home.
Jesus was able to reach prostitutes, Pharisees, ‘nones,’ urban, rural, young, old, male, female because He saw a person before He saw status or a label. My heart aches to live like that, to see people first.
May the inspired wisdom of James guide us today. He teaches us to care for the invisible. Let’s do it, for God’s sake. Here is a word from the Word. “My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear? Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.” (James 2:1-9, NLT)
Jesus loves us wholly! So loved, may we be loving.
How He Loves
He is jealous for me loves like a hurricane
I am a tree bending beneath
The weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden I am unaware of
These afflictions eclipsed by glory
I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me
Oh how He loves us so
Oh how He loves us
How He loves us so
We are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean we’re all sinking
So Heaven meets earth
Like a sloppy wet (unforeseen) kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way that
(Yeah) He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves us
Oh how He loves
John Mark McMillan © 2005 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing (IMI)) CCLI License # 810055