April 8, 2017
Every 30 years or so I go clothes shopping whether I need to or not. I recently wore out my corduroy bell bottoms with the really cool cuffs at the bottom. (FYI… the word “corduroy” literally means “kings clothing.” I’m all about that!) And my paisley shirts were getting a bit raggedy as well. Sooooooooooo… it was time to hit the clothing aisles at my local textile establishment. Well, okay… Walmart. I should mention that it’s not that I’m opposed to being stylish (well, okay it is partly that), but it’s mostly about the fact that I despise shopping for clothes! What a monumental waste of time. I know, I know… “Clothes make the man” blah, blah, blah. I guess I’m not much of a man… or something. I have known men over the years that have never bought their own clothes… that chore has been given to, or commandeered by, their wives. Not sure how that’s possible but Ellen… um… I have a request.
Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. Just a bit. It’s actually the “clothes make the man (or woman)” proverb that I would like to pursue a bit. I realize of course that it is somewhat of an over generalization, but the idea, of course, is a two-fold notion. First, that folks make an opinion of us based on our outward appearance. And second, that we actually behave to a certain degree based on what we are wearing. For the most part a tuxedo calls for a whole different way of comportment than does… say… sweats. Or a formal gown generally encourages a different attitude than spandex yoga pants. In church, we (sadly, in some cases) base our reverence and the respect of others toward God, on clothing. The idea is something like this: If you don’t dress “appropriately,” i.e., according to my standards, then you are not showing proper respect for God. Forget the notion that gossipy, judgmental people are showing even LESS respect for God! But I digress…
I suspect that most of us need to take some time to look into the heart of another before we make judgements about who or what they are. I know… it’s hard to see someone’s heart. And outward appearance and behavior are certainly an indicator of inward values and attitudes… but not always. For a moment let’s proceed as if outward appearance/behavior is THE indicator of what’s inside. How should Christians then appear to the world? Note I didn’t ask how we should appear to one another but, “How should we appear to the world?” What sort of values and behaviors should we exhibit that will unmistakably brand us as “Christ-ones.” Where is the place that we should drive our stake in the ground and say “I will not be moved from this spot?”
For some the answer to that question is based on social issues, i.e., you must uphold this social cause lest you are not a believer. Or you must be of a certain political party. For others, it’s based on their church traditions, i.e., you must be affiliated with this church, or you must believe a certain limited doctrine (the emphasis is on the word “traditions” like “no dancing,” or “no drinking”). I realize there are fine lines with some of these things. I mean there are certain doctrines that ARE essential in order to be Christian. Proper theology of The Trinity, for example. Again the question is, “How should we appear to the world?” What should they see when they look at Christians? I think the simple answer is this… the world should see a group of people who have this moniker; “We will ‘out love’ you in the Name of Jesus Christ.” What do you think of that?
A few verses to consider:
Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.
This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.
For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
There are numerous other verses in 1 John with a similar sentiment. I know that some might say, “Well, these verses are intended for Christians toward Christians.” Then they need to visit:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
We are clearly called to be the people of “love.” And yet we seem to have grown so far from that. The Church and Christian people have a reputation in the World but it is not as the people who will “out-love” others. We need to profoundly change that opinion of us.
Let me make a somewhat offensive statement. Until you/we/I have made a radical commitment to begin to love the world… love our enemies… love our neighbors… love those who are hard to love… then I wonder if we ought to even bother with Easter? Because without love… we have missed the point anyway.