Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What's the worst that can happen?

(With much thanks to Peter Walker for a comment on one of my posts, and the awesome series of Meeting House videos)

What is the worst that could happen if we started living and loving like Jesus? If we actually started building relationships with 'the least of these' that Jesus calls us to?
Mat 25:40 “Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me--you did it to me.'”
There are lots of people that could fit into that 'overlooked or ignored' group. The qualifications vary for each of us. Perhaps one of the various sub-cultures I talked about in my post on culture:
--the pierced and tattooed
--the homeless
--the gays, the prostitutes, the addicted
--the punks, the emos, the goths
--the hardcore, the straightedge, the headbangers
--the non-whites, the non-English, the non-American
You know the person you are most likely to walk past on the street, trying not to make eye contact.

But what is the worst that could happen if you actually made a friend with one of 'those kind of people'?

Peter Walker challenged me with the question, particularly referring to being a friend of a gay person: “what if someone thinks I'm 'one of them?!?'” (Realizing that many Christians treat gays like the biggest scourge on the earth)
That's the kind of worry we might have, that's one of the worst-case scenarios we might be worried about.
So, let's confront our fears, and dream up some more of the 'What's the worst that could happen?' screenplays in our minds.

In many cases, I think we are worried about being tarred with the same brush, treated as part of the same group. Whether it is a gay person, a prostitute or someone on drugs, we are worried that our lily-white reputation might be tarnished. We might lose our friends, we might not be looked up to any more.
It happened to Jesus, so don't be too surprised if you get treated in a similar fashion.
Mat 9:10 Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew's house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them.
Mat 9:11 When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus' followers. "What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riff-raff?"

We are a lot more worried about how we feel than with how they feel.
So really, our fear is that we will be treated like Jesus was treated—looked down on, talked about. If that is more important to us than loving them, we are missing the whole point.

Maybe you are worried about catching something from a homeless person—some terrible disease, or lice, or actually having to touch them, or caring enough to take them for a meal. Well, it wouldn't be any worse than they deal with all day long. Do you think they enjoy not having easy access to a shower or clean clothes? Do you think they really like suffering with a cold that just won't go away all winter long?

What about hanging around people with different musical tastes than you, having different political views than you, or dressing in a very different style than you? Are you worried that they might actually affect how you think about things? That you might change your political views or perception of society? That you might discover that the 'Christian' way you were taught to see life might not be completely accurate? That you might have to admit that you really don't completely understand an issue, and need to think about it some more? That you might have to admit your dogmatic view needs to be changed? That they might actually be (Gasp!) 'right', and you are (Double Gasp!!) 'wrong'?
You might even begin to understand why they have issues with society/adults/Christians.

It has become so easy to assume that our culture is the best one, the only one. That we have figured out the best way to do things. That 'the Canadian (or American) Way' is God's way. That any teaching about anything is from us to them (whoever you perceive them to be at the moment). We honestly don't think other cultures can show us anything of value. This tends to be as true about other national cultures as the sub-cultures around us. Do we see how arrogant that really is? Can we see how much beauty and wisdom we are missing?

So, the worst that could happen as we begin to treat people as Jesus would, as we are friends with people different than ourselves:
--we might see how it feels to be treated as a second-class member of society
--we might be treated like Jesus was treated
--we might get our hands dirty
--we might have our minds expanded
--we might experience life and beauty from the broader perspective of more than just our own culture.

We might start looking more like Jesus.

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