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Love – Grace – Polarization – Words – Action – Jesus, Friend Of Sinners

What has happened to the revolution that Jesus started? I am pretty sure it is still going on pretty strongly…..in other parts of the world. I really feel that we each need to consider the reality that it is slowing to a dangerous pace here AND I am very concerned about what our reactions have become. I fear that we have become too tied to “religion” and we have forgotten to consider how Jesus, Son of God, lived while here on this earth and the example He set.

How are we to view “different” people in this time? Luke 7:34-35, “the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” “Wisdom is vindicated by all her children” has been interpreted to mean that Jesus was saying that people were finding the Lord through relationship with Jesus, not religion. Is it time for us to understand that we need less religion and more real living like Jesus?

As society seems to unravel and immorality increases, I see all around me “non-believers” as well as followers of Jesus, the call, the desire, to show less mercy and grace and love. I find that a bunch of people would be happy with a good dose of fire, hail, and brimstone to fall down on large groups of people based on their race, place they live, religion, and culture. Too many followers of Jesus seem to be saying “give me some Old Testament justice.” Well Paul said we are to be in the ministry of reconciliation and Peter too clearly told us to be grace dispensers. Two apostles, two disciples wrote in our Holy Bible to administer grace.

Consider how much “air freshener” perfume is in a can of Fabreeze. I am guessing very little in reality. So you take this relatively small amount of air freshener and combine it with aerosol and you have changed the atmosphere, the surroundings of a large area. A few shots of Fabreeze and the room is pleasant again! That is how grace, love, mercy and relationship should work, I think. It does not convert the entire world or society, but it does enrich the room, that corner of the world. What if we were all doing that?

But I worry that the prevailing image of Christians has changed from that of a bottle of Fabreeze to a different spray thing: the kind use by insect exterminators. There’s a roach! Pump, spray, pump, spray. There’s a spot of evil! Pump, spray, pump, spray. Some followers have happily and with a vengeance taken on the task of “moral exterminator” for the evil-infested society around them.

Make no mistake, I share a large concern for our society. But as I study Jesus, as I consider how Jesus lived while here on this earth, I see what the power of grace, mercy, love, and relationship outside of religion/church can accomplish. Jesus came for the sick and not the well, the sinners and not the righteous. Jesus never accepted evil but he did stand ready to forgive it! Somehow, he gained the reputation as a lover of sinners, a reputation that I fear we are in reality in danger of losing today. Dorothy Day once said, “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.”

Ever look at Jesus’ companions? Known as a friend of tax collectors and they were actually exploiters and swindlers. He did respect Nicodemus, a dreaded Pharisee. He spoke against the dangers of money and violence, yet he showed love and respect toward a rich young ruler and a Roman centurion. Simply put, Jesus honored the dignity of every person whether he agreed with them or not! His kingdom is not founded on the basis of race or class or immigrant status! Anyone, a half-breed with five husbands or a thief dying on a cross was welcome to join His kingdom. The person is more important than the category or label.

Let us be careful about our causes of any kind! We need to remember that when we find ourselves shouting across the picket lines at the “enemy” on the other side, is that bringing the kingdom closer to those enemies, Jesus closer to those sinners? How hard is it to remember that the kingdom of God calls me to love the woman who has just emerged from the abortion clinic (and yes, even her doctor), the person dying of Aids, the same sex couple getting married, the wealthy who exploit. If we cannot show love to these people, then we must question whether we have truly understood Jesus’ gospel. The Good News is never accepted when shouted with hate.

A political movement by nature draws lines, makes distinctions, pronounces judgment; in contrast Jesus’ love cuts across lines, transcends distinctions, and dispenses grace, love, mercy and forgiveness in a relationship. If we smother the love of Jesus by our hate, are we true followers? From Jesus I have learned that whatever I get involved in, it must not drive out love and humility, or otherwise I feel I betray the kingdom of heaven……..Jesus.

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