Showing Grace and Forgiveness, Care and Compassion is harder when you are called to show it to people not like you. But it is even harder to do, when they don’t like you! Jesus says, “Love your enemy.” Whoever said being a Christian was easy when you have that line staring you in the face?
You see, now more than ever, we have to muster up the courage, take the risk, go beyond our tribal boundaries and love those who hate us. The sad reality is that people who hate, are operating out of fear. In other words, those that hate us are afraid of us or at least what we represent.
Returning hate for hate is very much a fool’s errand. It does nothing but heighten the sense of fear, anger and distrust. The other day I saw a quote that left me feeling empty. Here it is: “Christianity is not some welcome mat, letting people stomp on us.” Putting this quote in its context, leaves one with the impression that we only roll out the welcome mat for those we like or are like us.
Jesus died on the cross for all the world. In the words of institution in Lord’s Supper, Jesus says, “His blood is shed for all people for the forgiveness of sins.” God’s Grace in Jesus Christ is inclusive, not exclusive. When Christians say they are ridiculed and must fight back, I remember what Jesus said about being blessed, “When people verbally or physically attack you for my names sake, you are in good company.”
Religious and political tribalism have joined together to set up an “us versus them” dynamic. Not only is this not healthy, but neither is it faithful to Christ teachings. We are asked to be the instruments of God’s healing Grace and proclaimers of the Good News to all the world. We are asked, no commanded, by Christ to reach out and invite everyone into the Kingdom of God.
At St. Paul’s we say that, “All are Welcome!” Everyone is. Even people not like us might walk right into our lives, maybe even those who are our enemies. It is kind of like inviting the school yard bully to come to your birthday party. What do you think he or she might do with the invitation? They might actually show up and who knows what will happen? Maybe we make a friend.