Tolerance

One of These

Mark 9:36-37

“He took a little child whom he placed among them.
Taking the child in his arms, he said to them,
‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me;
and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.’”

At church this morning, Pastor Dave was talking about how God’s economy differs from ours, and how His view of success also departs from the benchmarks this world sets. His message focused on Mark 9:33-37, but I found myself drawn especially to his comments on verse 37. As I listened to him read the familiar verse, it gave me pause. Like so many verses and messages, I first tied it into my thoughts on adoption, and whether God could be calling our family in that direction.

But that wasn’t Dave’s focus, and it may not have been Christ’s, either. Specifically, Dave stated that Jesus had chosen a child for this illustration because in that time, children were not treated with much esteem or paid much attention. It was a kind of revolutionary teaching to suggest that children held so much value in the eyes of God. I suppose it’s always that way—that acknowledging the immense and inherent value of any marginalized individual or group of people would raise some eyebrows.

Dave was talking about what it means to be successful in God’s eyes, and he gave this advice: “Don’t be threatened by others’ success, and don’t be encouraged by others’ failures.” As I logged onto my Twitter account to share this “tweetable” statement, I was bombarded with messages relating to the mass shooting in Orlando that you’ve no doubt heard about by now. As I read the tweets and the headlines, the relevance of Mark 9:37 to this tragedy was not lost on me. I saw outpourings of love, sympathy, and prayers. But I also saw a couple of comments suggesting that this tragedy may have been ordained by God. I think not. At least not the God of the Bible.

“Whoever welcomes one of these little children”—one of these marginalized, one of these pushed aside, one of these mistreated, one of these ostracized, one of these disregarded—“welcomes me.” –Jesus

May we—like Jesus—welcome, invite, and value our fellow human beings, for whom He died, just as certainly as He died for you and me.

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Go in Peace

2 Kings 5: 18 – 19

But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this.”

 “Go in peace,” Elisha said.

These are times of great change in our nation and our society. Some see these changes wonderful and progressive, and others see them as an almost personal affront. Truth be told, many Christians fall into this second group. We tend to have strong beliefs and convictions about what is right and what is wrong, in God’s eyes and in our own. We then hold the rest of the world to those standards, often disregarding others’ beliefs and convictions. We make it our business to transform the beliefs systems of others, or at least to enforce our own upon the masses.

But in all honesty, others’ decisions and actions are not our responsibility. Free will applies equally to all. We say that we don’t want to celebrate or facilitate sin. We say that we don’t want to water down the weight of others’ iniquity—even though our own has been washed away entirely. We claim righteous indignation, but we display plain old self-righteous hypocracy. We use our convictions as an excuse for discrimination and even hatred. For most of us, this is unconscious. But if we look at the way our convictions influence our choices, our relationships, our Facebook posts—it’s much less deniable that love is NOT our motivation after all. Nor is grace, mercy, or reconciliation.

The fact is that we have no business sitting in judgment against our fellow fallen humans, deciding which sins are ‘more grievous’ than others. We have no business refusing to work with or for another person, simply because they don’t subscribe to our beliefs and convictions. We certainly have no business refusing to SERVE them. For crying out loud, Jesus Himself said that “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). What in the world? Where do we get off? The more I think about it, the more I read about it, the more I realize just how absurd we’ve been, as a people—and as a Body.

So how do we reconcile our beliefs and convictions with those of others, while being true to our faith and to our God? I personally have been incredibly blessed by the account presented in 2 Kings Chapter 5. Our pastor shared this scripture a few months ago, and I’ve turned to it repeatedly since then. Long story short, Naaman, who is an aide to a king who worships false gods, suffers from leprosy. He learns of a prophet of God (Elisha) who can heal him of this affliction, and travels to see him. Upon being healed, he recognizes the power and sovereignty of the one true God, and vows to worship Him only. But one of his duties as aide to the king of Aram is to assist him in visiting the temple of Rimmon, a false god. And the king must lean on Naaman’s arm to bow down, and by extension, Naaman must kneel next to him. I love Elisha’s response when Naaman asks God’s forgiveness for this one thing: “Go in peace.”

Go in peace.
Love.
Serve.
And go in peace.

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