In reading the assigned lectionary Epistle and Gospel for this week, I thought about the part of our mission statement that says “we exist to care about one another in Christ.” There are many, many scriptures in which we are told to do just this. So why is it Christians find this so hard to do?
I look around Alabama at the plight of the poor, homeless, sick, and even those in prison that Jesus spoke so passionately about in Luke 4 and Matthew 25. Then I think about how Alabama loves to proclaim itself as one of the most Christian states in America and I can’t help but wonder: Why do so many Christians oppose a minimum wage that is a livable wage? Why do so many Christians oppose any attempt to offer health care to the poor and needy and those who can’t afford it? Why do so many Christians support measures to limit ballot access? Why do so many Christians support measures called “religion freedom” but whose only purpose is “religious discrimination”?
I’m convinced that despite proclaiming to be followers of Christ, following a “Golden Rule” that says “do unto others as you would have them do unto you;” the real reason so many Christians find it easy to fall into the trap of NOT “caring about one another in Christ” is because they see those different as “the nameless and faceless them” who are not a part of “US.” As such, we allow ourselves to hold on to old prejudices where we act indifferent, often hostile to the plight of “them.” Perhaps that’s why Jesus asked in the gospel of those He was speaking to about “them” who suffered some terrible things, “do you think they were more guilty or worse sinners than you?” Jesus followed His question with a story of grace toward a fig tree of all things.
At the age of 83, in writing his autobiography, G. Stanley Jones, the great missionary to India, friend to Gandhi and tireless world traveler says, “It took 3 attempts because he discovered that in the first two attempts he had been working backwards. He had been working from events to the Christ Event in his life.” So in the introduction of his third attempt he writes “Christ has been, and is, to me the Event.” He tells a story about an African who, after he was baptized, changed his name to “After.” It was his way of saying that the real work of his life happened “after” he met Christ. Jones said that was an accurate description of his own life. The thing that enabled him to get past his prejudices and preconceived ideas of others different than him and to “care about others in Christ” was understanding his own life in the light of his commitment to Christ (the Christ Event.).
He came to understand that yes, the ship of his life was very different than the ship of the lives of others for whom he used to errantly pre-judge based on prejudices and preconceived notions he had learned prior to his “Christ Event.” But his “Christ Event,” helped him to see “THEM” as part of “US” (the family of God).
“We exist to care about one another in Christ.” It led Jones to a lifetime of missionary work understanding “Grace” is “How different Ships become The Same Boat.” Or to paraphrase an Epistle verse for this Sunday, “Grace is knowing that we all eat from the same spiritual food and drink from the same spiritual drink from the same spiritual rock that accompany us as Christians, and that rock is Christ.”
So join us on this last Sunday of Black History Month as we “Life Every Voice and Sing” of our life journeys and God’s Grace. I’ll be preaching a sermon called “Grace: How Different Ships Become the Same Boat.” The scripture for this week is “I Corinthians 10:1-4” and “Luke 13:1-9.”