We human beings begin in Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Every man or woman, of every race, or every ethnicity, of every area of the world, be they able-bodied or disabled, be they smart or dumb, be they CEO’s or workers, straight or LGBT—God created them all.
I realize that it is our very human inclination to divide and prefer one over another, to be tribal about the people we meet—they’re either of our tribe or we judge them, confine them to the “other, not us” category and dismiss them as if they shouldn’t get in our way. This is definitely the way of the world. There is a big difference between noticing something about someone and condemning them because of what you have noticed. But judging and condemning –is this Jesus’s way or God’s way? A resounding no!!
Who did Jesus spend his time with—everyone from the Pharisees to the blind, the lame, the other, even Samaritans, Romans, prostitutes, the dispossessed. Everyone—tax collectors and more. Jesus didn’t say I can only heal Jews! He didn’t withhold his teachings or his healings from those who wouldn’t agree like the Romans and other neighbors, who were not of his own religion.
He didn’t withhold his gifts from anyone in need. He treated everyone the same, although he was always apt to call out the Pharisees on their falling short of the spirit of the Law, or their attempts to look good, when their hearts weren’t in it. A whole chapter in Matthew is devoted to his criticisms of the Pharisees—Chapter 23.
In Matthew 25 we find Jesus saying four times, two in the negative sense to those who refused to help and twice in the positive sense for those who did help others: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”[v. 35-6] When Jesus said “me” in these passages he is identifying himself with each person in need. He is saying directly to us that if you did not help those in need, then you refused to help Jesus or to follow him. And if you did help them, whoever they were, you were following his teachings and would be blessed by God and receive your inheritance in the kingdom. [v. 34]
He is not talking about just helping people with physical needs of food and water and clothes and shelter and visits. There are psychological needs that we can help fill, spiritual needs that need to be addressed, mental needs, too. Often people need their stories to be heard and acknowledged, validated, too. They need to be forgiven. They may need meaningful work. The list is endless of how we can help others. It is our willingness to be present to them and to help with their needs that is key. !00% attention to the person before you.
If we claim to be followers of Jesus, then we need to follow him in all that we do. We need to express God’s love to all of mankind whether they are like us or not. We need to be more concerned with connecting people to God than with calling out their sin, for God will call them on their sin in a way that will invite them to change, not to harangue them about changing. We need to be healing hands and minds for all the people we meet. We need to be love in action which treats everyone the same whether they are like us or not.
And where would we be likely to find Jesus today? Among the outcast, the disenfranchised, the discarded as well as the people who are rich and powerful in this world. He wouldn’t be silent about the “Pharisees” of our day, the ones who are perfect followers of the law, but lack the spirit of love. We have no right to trample over or be rude to or to be dismissive of anyone. We have no right to gossip about anyone; gossip is so destructive to the ones who are the targets and to ourselves who are dishing up shame. We are all created in God’s image. Rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight, man, woman, sick or healthy, religious or not—this list should include everyone.
No matter how you might judge them, God is not judging them at all. For He sees his children in each of us, in EVERYONE of us. He recognizes his image in each of us. He knows that the Indwelling Spirit of God dwells in each of us whether we know it or not. He loves and forgives e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e, no matter what, if we will only turn back to him. [Matthew 3:1-12]
So how can we claim to be God’s children if we don’t act like God does? How can we not hear what Jesus taught and what it requires of us? How can we continue our own human will in the face of the greater will of God? I contend that we project our own unwillingness to accept ourselves for who we really are onto God and expect God to act like us. And we project our own sin onto others and call them out for their sin and ignore our own. When will we live and act like Jesus did?
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I judging? Gossiping? Poking fun at others’ foibles? Do I acknowledge my own sin and forget about someone else’s? Am I interested in how a person came to be what they are today? Am I able to love? Really love without judgment or condemnation?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who can love and embrace everyone, citizen and immigrant, outcast and welcomed. May we stop at noticing any differences among people and leave off any judgment or condemnation. May we express the fruit of the Spirit to all that we meet: peace, joy, love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
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