I believe that if we could be kind to each other the face of the world would change. It seems like an elementary truth but one that has been forgotten. The world is so divided right now. So much hate and division against people who think, act, or believe differently than we do.
Two years ago for Christmas our son gave us this little machine called Alexa, that girl is so smart. So, I asked her, Alexa, how many people are in the world? She said, as of 2017 there are an estimated 7.5 Billion people on planet earth. I thought, wow, and according to Genesis 1:27, all are made in the image of Almighty God. All rough drafts of the people we’re all still becoming. No One has arrived, although we act like it’s certain that we should.
I believe the gift of Christianity is diversity, all you have to do is look at the friends of Jesus. We are all brothers and sisters really. All with a different story that God sees and understands with such patience and mercy and loves us all. God’s love is not exclusive and determined by the worthiness of the receiver, rather, God’s love is determined by the abundance of the giver, God.
I’m more aware of the diversity of humanity when I travel. In those touristy hot spots walking amongst thousands of people. Listening to the different languages of people passing by. Noticing the different people groups from all over the world. I love it. You can tell the different religions, and you will see all shapes and sizes, all colors, and genders, from people with disabilities, to those with tattoo’s and piercings. I’ve looked in the faces of some younger people with lines and a hardness that tell a story. I wish I could sit and hear their story. I would tell them, do you know that God’s heart is so softened toward you, even and especially in your suffering. Man, the human journey of life is full of joy and full of heartache.
Our keynote speaker owned a bar at one time in his life and I’m a hairdresser, I know your wondering, so, what do those two things have in common. Well, for some reason, when you sit on a bar stool or you sit in your hairdressers chair people seem to bear their souls of all the joy’s and heartache in their lives. A little piece of that 7.5 billion have sat in my chair over the 30 plus year and have shared with me the heartbreak of divorce, the pain of all the losses in their lives, their cancer diagnosis, we share stories of our children. I hear about their pets, they tell me about their transgender family members, their gay children that they love, but they sit in silence because of hate in judgement. Breaks my heart. I hear why some have become atheist, we share vacation pictures, I have clients raising their grandchildren because their kids are addicted or incarcerated. Some of democrats and some or republicans, some or racist, and some or homophobic. It makes for interesting conversation. But, I have to say that my clients or amazing, because we can sit and hear each other’s hearts. I becomes like a classroom, we learn from each other with the possibility that we don’t have all the answers. We have laughed, and cried with each other, and given the opportunity we have prayed with each other.I say all this because its so important to realize that we live in a imperfect, broken world, we are not all the same and we’re not suppose to be.
So, with so many differences, how can we make our homes, neighborhoods, schools, work places and communities a much kinder, more respectful place. Because whether you are black, white, or yellow, gay or straight, atheist or evangelical christian, liberal or conservative. We all have more in common than you can ever imagine. I believe we are all after the same thing. We all want to live a life that is joyful and peaceful as can be. We all want to leave the world better than we found it. We all want to create a safe place for our children and grandchildren. We all want to be a good friend.
I believe with considerable conviction that if a person pass by and saw someone on the side of the road who needed help, that they would stop and render aide. It wouldn’t matter the color of their skin, or they were gay, Muslim, liberal or conservative. They would stop because they are human, because we recognize in each other something special, a spark of life, and awareness, and ability to love and to bleed.
And so, I would say maybe this fight over these propositional ideas about the existence of God, the nature of God or not, is a distraction from our true potential. That for the atheist to be a good humanist is to invite everyone into the world by making it better. Or, a follower of Jesus Christ, the best use of the image of God is to live a life of unimaginable love and grace toward the other. The outcome of both approaches are the same thing- a better world.
So where we can agree, lets work together. We all thing it’s a tragedy when a child goes to bed hungry. We all think it’s a tragedy when one of these teens has to sleep in the park and she’s trying her hardest to still go to school. Doesn’t matter of your democrat or republican. We all agree that it’s a tragedy when a child grows up without parents to care for them. And on those things that we just cannot agree on, those issues of division, maybe we can at least acknowledge our shared goals and treat each other civilly and with dignity. And at the end of the day understand that we truly are all the same. All made in the image of God. And to honor what God is apparently patient with: The Human Struggle.
My life experiences have helped me to understand why Jesus explains the Holy Spirit as the Wind. He cannot be contained in a concrete building, or a denomination box. The Divine can never fit within the fixed borders of our comprehension or our systematic theology. We fight and squabble over words, but the Word became flesh and walked the streets in search of the outcast, the marginalized, those on the edge of society. I wonder if He were walking the earth today who would be searching for… The Spirit will never shrink down to a size in which we can intellectually get our mind around the borders and edges. For thousand of years people have tried, that’s why there are over 30,000 denominations. But He is God and we are not. And He loves the 7.5 billion, we have a hard time loving our family members sometimes. The Spirit can reveal himself in the sand to a Muslim if He chooses to. He can whisper in the ear of a gay teen who is about to take his life because of rejection from family and church, and say, “I love you, stay close to me, it’s gonna be ok.” He can come to the atheist in the form of a dream and tell her, “it’s not true what they say about Me, you are my beloved, and everything that I have is yours.”
I love in Exodus how God tells Moses, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. And then He says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “for My thoughts are not your thoughts and My ways are not your ways.” The Spirit makes all sorts of room to move and dance, sway and bend, and all sorts of room for the unknown, the mysteries, the unglimpsed. But, it takes humility to be able to say I don’t know all the answers so I rest in the most beautiful word for God, Mystery. I’ve learned that I can carry the known and the unknown together as part of the mystery of God.
There are things that I do know though. Our homes and communities are a much better place when people are generous and kind. I know when I’m inclusive, that person feels loved, accepted, and human. Maybe just maybe they will feel the love of the Father through me. So, is it better to make rush judgements about people or wait and ask questions and find out where their coming from, to hear a bit more of their story. Is it best practice to exclude the “other” anybody not like you or me. To simply dismiss them or to go in as a student, to assume that even that person is my teacher, go in with an open mind and think, I wonder what will be here for me in this encounter. Even if its 10%, people that seek wisdom want that 10%. Again, it takes humility to do this, because we love to be right. Is it better if we take tiny steps toward forgiving a wound instead of holding on to it. Forgiveness is a process, but ultimately it will bring peace to our soul.
When we can see our own dark side, because we all have one, our own weaknesses in others, it helps us to extend grace, because we know at any given moment we can be capable of that very same thing at times. And the hierarchy of Christian truth should always be mercy because we are all in such need of it every single day.
Have you ever met a person when you just stood next to them you feel icky, judged, and unworthy of love. And have you ever met a person who had such kindness in their soul, it reflected in their face, their eyes, their smiles, even the tone of their voices. They reflect more of Jesus than any sermon you will ever hear.
I’m not saying that we can never get angry, because there are injustices out there that make us very angry. But, how do we stand up against hate and not become hate ourselves? Jesus teaches us if we put our energy into choosing the good instead of the negative energy of rejecting the bad, we will overcome the evil and not become evil ourselves. Richard Rohr says, “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the good. So we overcome evil in the world by doing good.
I’ve been taught my whole life that the narrow road is perfection, and policing people onto it. That only creates people who wear mask to hide all their imperfections, and self-righteous people. The narrow road is only traveled by a few, a remnant that God seeks out in every generation. Their world changers. It’s a person that can live a life of radical love and can see the image of God in all people. Mother Theresa walked that narrow road. She took 2 Cor. 5:19 very serious. For God was in Christ, reconciling the whole world (the 7.5 billion) to Himself, no longer counting their sins against them. This little lady had no ego, thinking she was better than others. Just humility of heart. She touched the lepers and reconciled people to Jesus wherever she went. Never judging. Only loving. She propelled people forward and the only place for them to fall was in the arms of Grace. Is there any other way really? She understood the heart of the Gospel message: I SEE ALL OF YOU AND I STILL WANT YOU AND LOVE YOU. God is available and accessible as our breath itself, and no religion can portion it out, control it or say who gets it. No exclusions ever.
So I’ll end with this. I know a man who was married to someone I love with all my heart. This man was very well respected in the church. He wore his khaki pants and polo shirt, and was a big tither. But when the last person left his community group, he would berate his wife and fling his iPad across the room because she didn’t ask for the right prayer request. So, please be careful who you believe is good and who you believe is evil.
Somehow, I think God didn’t want Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of good and evil because He knew we would live lives of dividing, separateness, who’s in, who’s out, who’s worthy and who’s not, which will always breed hate and division. BUT ONLY GOD SEE’S THE HEART. And sometimes love is found in the most unexpected places. The guy with the tatoo’s, the excluded, the marginalized, the outcast, those who mourn, the poor in spirit. That’s what Jesus shouts from Calvary. For Jesus, there was no postures, no group membership, no superiority. Our need to discriminate has been denied by Calvary! Because Jesus shouts forgiveness, Grace, Mercy, Compassion. He enters the suffering of humanity, and wants us to do the same. One Shepard one flock.
So lets all take inventory of our friends, Are our circles small with people just like us, or is there diversity in our circle, because when you gaze upon the Crucified One, your world should be more spacious, more inclusive, more kind, more loving, and all who are hungry are welcomed at the table. Remember, we all have more in common than what we think we do. And you will never look into the eyes of another person that is no loved by God.