Paul’s words that I read this morning said “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.” Romans 12:9 (The Message) Bam! What an ‘on point’ directive. Americans like to think that discrimination is just something that someone else does.
No one likes to think that they are prejudiced. But our history is full of tragic stories of discrimination, often with the cooperation of the law. The awful sin of slavery blighted this nation, brought suffering on millions, and destroyed human beings. Though the Civil War officially settled the question of slavery, racial discrimination remains a real issue in our nation 150 years later! I find it tragic that our current political atmosphere is letting stereotypical images turn people into objects, so many speaking rhetoric that only feeds fear. Let’s not forget what fear did during World War 2. Americans decided that being of Japanese descent was enough to make a person suspicious, and this land of the free, took thousands of its own citizens and locked them in internment camps.
Christians are to really love ‘from the center of who we are’ because we are loved! Discriminating against others, turning them into objects of scorn, is a sin that is incompatible with the love of Christ Jesus. Have you ever felt shut out, like you didn’t belong? Rejection is a painful experience. From the time of childhood, right through adulthood, we human beings have the awful capacity to scorn the person who is different – in color, in race, in religion, in language, even in ability. Why we do it this is complex but God’s desire is clear: Love!
In the Gospel story of the Incarnation, we find fear, discrimination, and God’s answer! When Joseph found out that his fiancé, Mary, was pregnant he decided that he would break their engagement; quietly, without trying to publicly shame her. His heart was most likely broken by her apparent unfaithfulness, but there was another thread in the story, too. His honor was at stake. When her pregnancy became obvious, there would be stares and whispers, those who would wonder if he had impregnated her, others who would think she had sought another lover.
In the middle of his thoughts, God sent an angelic messenger who assured him of Mary’s fidelity. The Lord asked Joseph to overcome his fear of discrimination. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21, NLT) Stand with her, Joseph! And he did! He was an obedient man who took whatever shame and criticism that she might have borne on himself.
God loved us when we were outcasts and rejects. The Bible says, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” He stood with us and now He desires that we love those who are rejected, identifying ourselves with them, standing with them. We are called to take up the cause of those that would be denied justice. It is what Jesus would do, and so must we. The Scripture says, “Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” (James 1:27, The Message) God asks us to practice a costly love that sees the need of others and reaches out to meet that need.
We need to guard against a patronizing kind of assistance that reaches ‘down’ without really coming alongside of those in need. Much of the so-called care for the poor, the needy, the rejected is done from a distance without really becoming one of ‘them,’ whomever they are. Simply offering a meal or a word of concern or a check to help with rent is a nice gesture and relieves some measure of suffering, but such efforts do not change people’s lives or show them God’s salvation.
Only if we are willing to get involved in a way that makes our lives intersect with those in need, can we hope to really make a difference. This is what Jesus did in the Incarnation! “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.” (John 1:14, The Message) Christian, when it comes to those in need are you just sending a check, or are you presenting yourself? There’s a big difference. Jesus said, “I’ll stand with you.” I hope you and I will do the same for those who are suffering, rejected, alone, or trapped by sin’s consequences.
Would you ask the Lord to confront you with hidden prejudice, with those ways in which you are less than loving towards those who are different from you? I am because I want to please Him, honor Him, and obey Him when He says to me, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.”
Here is a word from the Word, from the preacher Micah. “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, 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 6:6-8, NIV)
A song of God’s love for us. Let it inspire love in you.
Rescue (Lauren Daigle sings it beautifully!)
You are not hidden
There’s never been a moment
You were forgotten
You are not hopeless
Though you have been broken
Your innocence stolen
I hear you whisper underneath your breath
I hear your SOS your SOS
I will send out an army to find you
In the middle of the darkest night it’s true
I will rescue you
There is no distance
That can not be covered
Over and over
You’re not defenseless
I’ll be your shelter
I’ll be your armor
I will never stop marching to reach you
In the middle of the hardest fight it’s true
I will rescue you
I hear the whisper underneath your breath
I hear you whisper you have nothing left
Jason Ingram | Lauren Daigle | Paul Mabury
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