What About Them?

In Matthew 23, Jesus warns the Pharisees about focusing on rules over the love and mercy of God. How do we treat people? When you reach out in compassion towards someone, anyone…we are treating them as Jesus would. One of my dear friends just hugged and hugged me last night, until the tears flowed….In that moment, she was the arms of Jesus to me.

This post is about how we treat people. How did Jesus treat people? Back then, probably everyone came to church (synagogue) in sandals. But, these days when someone walks into church in  flip flops or torn jeans, how do you feel? Their clothes, hairstyle, or jewelry may displease your eyes, but how’s your heart? Are you glad they’re there? Jesus is. On the flipside, if someone is wearing a suit, do you immediately assume they are looking down on you for not?

What if they smell like smoke? What if they are ashamed? Embarrassed? Guilty? Hurt? Can we be the hands and feet of Jesus? Can we not only make room on our faithful pew, but smile and welcome them? Because, guess what, we all are. They have come to the right place, not the wrong one.

It hurts my heart so badly when I hear the stories of church people against church people or just as much church people against other church people. We are all people. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), so it’s been like this for ages and it will continue to. But, I’d still like to point out that although we will never be Jesus, we can ask Him for help to love and view others as He does.

As a married woman and a single mom, I’ve walked into church countless times alone. I look for friends, but I still usually sit alone, sometimes I slip out the back early. I come for Jesus and fellowship with loving, accepting, warm believers, but I leave before I get it for fear that I won’t. As have many. And some never return because of it…

I’ve been seen with a few different guys at church over the past few years. I’ll be honest, it’s hard and embarrassing. When you’re married and alone, people wonder where your spouse is. When you’re single, they wonder why, when you’re with someone new, they wonder who, why, and how long. And, truth of the matter, even if people aren’t thinking this, we think they are. This is just a personal example. There are so many other concerns that people walk into church with, are self conscious about, or feel different because of. Think about the courage it takes…

This happens everywhere people are because we are just that….people. All churches, at family reunions, in the grocery store, on the highway, at our workplace, on social media, at Christmas dinner….It’s the way Christians (enter your denomination here) treat other people (especially other Christians (enter your denomination here) that turn people away. As much as this hurts my heart, I cannot imagine how much it hurts God’s.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-45 (ESV)

When we wonder whether or not to reach out, I think we need to remember and focus on how far God reached for us. With arms stretched as far as He possibly could, nailed to that wooden cross, Jesus reached, stretched, gasped, and died for me. Maybe someone else needs this reminder today.

He didn’t just do this for me, He did it for all of you. Everyone. So, my desire is to treat people in this way. All people. Like a person He died for, because He did. Regardless of what your scared to share or who you voted for, whether you’ve served time or should, whether you live on a golf course or in your back seat…Regardless of how you eat, keep the Sabbath, or dress. Regardless of what church you attend or school your kids go to.

May we love like Jesus does. When I die, this is the legacy I would most like to leave.

I pray forgiveness for when I’ve failed, I know that I have. Where does our help come from? Our help comes from the Lord. (Psalm 121:2)

 

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Courage to Face the Fear…

courage

The Lord is on my side, and I am not afraid of what others can do to me. Psalms 118:6 (CEV)

This verse is inspiring, but still hard for me to wrap my head around. One of my greatest fears is hurting someone’s feelings with my words or actions. I think that’s because I know how that feels all too well. Having your feelings hurt can inflict wounds so deep that it takes a lot longer to heal than a physical wound. I’d take a broken bone over a broken heart or spirit any day. If left untreated, the scars left behind by hurt feelings and a wounded spirit may never heal and leave our hearts bitter, hard, untrusting, and fearful and this, in turn, hurts others.

My own feelings have been dismissed, hurt, and minimized countless times in my 36 years. Because I know this pain intimately, hurting others scares me greatly. My fear in standing up for myself has been fed by my fear of disappointing others, hurting their feelings, being misunderstood, or just plain trying to keep the “peace”. What this verse means to me is that if we stand up for ourselves or others in LOVE, we can be firm, honest, and true to ourselves and God, without the fear of how the person will retaliate. Leave their reactions to God and let Him deal with the circumstances of you standing up and speaking the truth. It takes God-given strength to speak the truth when you have lived in fear of other’s reactions your whole life. You’ve heard the saying “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes”? This rings increasingly true to me. Ask God to help you perform the actions He desires and let Him deal with the reactions. Speak the truth in love and the truth shall surely set you free. He knows our hearts. That is such a relief to me and I hope it is to you….because one thing we all need in this world is relief!