My mother managed a household of eleven children with a calmness and efficiency that not many people seem to be able to emulate. Coupled with that, she was gifted with lots of godly wisdom and patience. Since I am the tenth child, I was born when my mother was in her forties. Many kids in my classes at school had grandparents the same age or a little older than my mother. As I accompanied my mom on some of her errands or visits she made with people, I was able to observe other people's reaction to her. As I got older I began to notice that people would respond to my mom in what I thought was a very odd manner.
It would begin with a normal conversation. Then the person would look puzzled at my mother, then uncomfortable, and then finally ignore her or begin to talk down to her. For a long time I was puzzled by this but then began to realize, "Mom can't hear what was just said. She is responding but not to what was said but what she thought was said." You see, when my mom was in her early fifties, she began to suffer hearing loss. Her hearing degenerated until she needed hearing aids. Gradually, my Mom would begin telling people she could not hear but that made barely any difference. They would talk LOUDER but not more clearly. I am sorry to say, there were a number of people that were not able to see beyond the loss of hearing into the wise, godly woman my mother is.
As human beings, we do not like people or are uncomfortable with people who are different. It really does not matter what the difference is:
-a physical disability
-a mental disability
-a different race
-a different first language
-a different upbringing
-a different way of viewing the world
And this is just a small list of the differences we often barely tolerate in others. We strive for uniformity while yet convinced that the way we are and what we do is the best.
When Jesus tells us to love others as we love ourselves, does He mean that we only befriend people once they have become enough "like us"? (whatever that is) I would venture to say that this is precisely the area where the Gospel should make such a radical difference.
Of all people, Christians should be showing the world what it means to 'love one another'. We need to love each other as Christ has loved us.
Christ came down from heaven to earth. Think about it for a moment:
He left His Father's house, where He was the beloved Son, and came into the world despised and rejected by men. The very people He came for, rejected Him, and when they began to believe in Him never fully appreciated what He did for them. Those of you who confess His Name: are you perfectly appreciative of what Christ has done for you? Do you fully realize what He gave up to come to this earth and be a man? Are you 100% thankful, all the time of what He gave up for you?
This Christ, this Christianity, knocked the worldviews in vogue during those days flat. This small thing, begun in a stable in a little dusty, nondescript town, grew into a big world-changing behemoth. I wonder if it was because of the equalizing effect of the gospel. The early church consisted of wealthy Romans, Jews from the upper echelons of religious society, despised tax collectors, slaves, beggars, the 'mob'.
James emphasized the need for absolutely no favouritism to be shown to the rich and famous in Christian assemblies. Poor, despised Jewish fishermen became the leaders of the Christian church. What if they had said, "Hey wait a minute, un-unh not good elder material here, lousy fisherman, uses bad grammar and did you see his manners? (or actually lack thereof?) Jesus hand-picked these leaders and we know He makes no mistakes. He molded them and taught them and that is what made them good leaders. They were taught of God.
Jesus had time for the poor, the weak, the despised, the rich, the infamous. He had time for them all.
What would the world around you be like if you began to live this way? How about challenging yourself to begin to really love a 'different' person today?
How about taking the time to build a relationship with your immigrant neighbour?
How about beginning a friendship with someone other than your usual group you hang out with?
You may be surprised. That person who didn't respond "right" in that social setting may not in fact, be a weirdo but may have a very good reason for responding a little differently.
That other person who doesn't seem too impressed with your clean windows and "perfect" children may have other things on their mind.
That immigrant may actually be a lot smarter than you ever will be. He or she may know five languages, have seen much more of the world than you have, and may have about 100% more life experience than you do.
That mentally challenged individual may know way more about the Father love God has for His children than you could ever comprehend in your lifetime.
That person in the wheelchair is probably not as slow or stupid as you may think and may be perfectly aware of how crookedly her legs are resting on the foot rest but not be able to do a thing about it. She usually likes talking about other things than how she is doing physically.
Being popular in a certain social set gives one no 'brownie points' with God. Taking up your cross daily is what is required of you. Making disciples of the nations, not of just one group of people, is the command given to the church. You are commanded to serve Christ. You are commanded to love your neighbour as you love yourself.
Impossible? Yes, of course! Can it be done? Yes, of course!
I can do ALL things through Christ Who strengthens me.
Let's set out to change the world, God's way!