Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Christ in Others

I have always considered myself a relatively caring person.  I mean really! I have been a minister, an EMT, a disaster relief worker, a counselor.  Almost everything I have ever done has been service oriented.

I come by this honestly.  Service to others, often costly service, has been a hallmark of my family of origin.  My grandfather and grandmother were Mennonite missionaries to the Cheyenne tribe in Montana and served them with humility and compassion.  Aunts and Uncles served as doctors and minister, caring for others, serving their communities in many ways.  Cousins have worked tirelessly for non-profits, seeking to better the lives of those whom God has placed in their path.  It is the Kliewer way.

But recently while reading Brennan Manning's book The Wisdom of Tenderness I was challenged to look at myself again.  Manning points out how, in many places, the Bible sends us a message that is somewhat different from what we might expect.  In John 13 (love on another as I have loved you), I John 4:11 (Since God loved us so much, we should love one another), and Matthew 22 (love God and love your neighbor), we are challenged, as our response to God's love, to love those around us. 

We might expect to be  told to respond to God's love by loving God in return.  Not to mention worship God and obey God.  But no, we are told to love those around us.  No, not just to love those around us, but to love everyone around us.  In the parable of the great judgement in Matthew 25 we have that incredible story where people are judged based upon whether they responded in love to the hungry, thirsty, naked Jesus.  When the people questioned when they had ever seen Jesus in need, and responded to him, Jesus answer, "when you did this for the least of these, you did it to me."

This reminds us of a powerful fact.  God, is all those we  meet.  All.  Sometimes, Manning reminds us, "he's buried there, sometimes he's bound hand and foot there, but he's there."  That means that when we love "the least of these" we love God.  Perhaps the words of the Bible aren't as strange as we think.  

The point is clear.  We are surrounded by people who are hungry, thirsty and naked, literally.  Those who are homeless, in poverty, afflicted by mental illness and more.  We are also surrounded by people who are hungry, thirsty and naked in other ways as well.  Hungry for love and understanding, thirsty for affirmation and respect, naked in their loneliness, in the harsh light of bad decisions.

We are to love all these.  Not just the one's who are easy to love.  Not just the one's who are rewarding to love.  But also those who are hard to  love.   Those who don't respond.  Those who hurt and wound us.  Those who ignore us.  Those whom society judges and reject.  We are too love them all.

I have come to realize that all too often my love is selective.  I love those who are lovable.  I love those I am "paid" to love.  I love people when others notice, and give me credit.  But there are too many I don't love.  

May God give  me grace.  May I so let God love me that I am permeated with God's love, filled to such a degree that all I say and do will be an expression of who I am in Christ.  I am a long way from being  in  that place. May the journey begin.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Stephen, for these thoughts. I remember sitting in a Unity service years ago. the minister said to us all: "There's a man sitting next to you. He stinks of sweat, dirty clothes, vomit, urine. This is your neighbor. Can you love this man?" I have never forgotten that. So, I set that as a goal for myself. But you know what? Loving THAT man is sometimes far easier than loving those that piss me off, those family members that are aggravating, those folks who are closed minded, bigoted and ignorant, and those who reject me for whatever reason. I'm asked to love them all. And, yes, I'm encouraged to bring them home for dinner!

    Like you said, "Let the journey begin" and begin and begin and . . .