Race, as it always seems to, is fracturing this country dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Ahmad Arbury died in Brunswick. George Floyd died while being arrested. Rashard Brooks was fatally shot after resisting arrest and firing a taser at an officer while fleeing. There have been other recent incidents of black people being hurt or treated unfairly because of their skin color.
People are angry. People are hurting. People are afraid. Emotions are boiling over and not just in America but the world over. Protests have erupted everywhere. Rioting, too. I’m sure you have an opinion about all this. That’s fine. But I want to encourage you to do something else.
I want you to try to think like Jesus.
You may believe you are thinking like Jesus, but I’m sorry, the chances are you are not. The fact that so many of us are willing to quickly take a side and to brand the other side as wrong and evil says you aren’t thinking like Jesus. That’s not what Jesus did. Instead of taking a side, Jesus sided with everyone. Watch Jesus interact with people. He famously hung out with tax collectors and women who had been forced onto the wrong side of the tracks. More than once he went to the home of a “sinner” to eat with them. But somehow we miss that Jesus did the same with Pharisees. He put his feet under their tables too. A gentile woman asked him to heal her daughter. After some interesting banter, Jesus said that woman had greater faith than any Jew he’d yet seen. And the story goes to pains to point out she was a Canaanite woman. A Canaanite. Those people specially cursed by Noah and placed under a ban of total annihilation during the days of Joshua. Jesus lifts all that and brings the Canaanites into the freedom and love of God. And Romans, those outsiders who came here and robbed us of our freedom and defile our land and force us to carry their packs and humiliate us daily by nothing more than their presence, Jesus heals their servants and children and eventually, when the time is right, brings them into his church.
To Jesus no one was a label. No one was a race. No one was a category. To Jesus they were human beings in need of being brought back into the family of God because something had pushed them out. He was here to change that and he did change it by his cross, but first he did it by listening, understanding, and welcoming. He did it by loving. He did it by going into their homes. He did it by touching people no one would touch. He did it by pulling together a group that was beginning to look a little like heaven, a group that included pro-Roman collaborators and anti-Roman terrorists in one little band. He called this group “apostles.”
We’re to do the same. Rather than create a group that stands on a side and brands all others wrong, we are to create a group where no one is a label and everyone is welcome and everyone is heard and loved and where former racists can love and welcome whoever and those whoevers can forgive others for the wounds they have received and thus be healed. That’s what heaven looks like. We’re here to make heaven present now. On earth as it is in heaven. Remember? That can only be when you put aside your opinion and begin to be like Jesus.
So listen even to people you don’t agree with. Hear them. Try to understand. Drop the labels. They are not a cop or a black activist. They’re someone Jesus is drawing to himself and you are who he is using to do so.