It is interesting that the passages this week focused on caring for the poor, and looking out for the oppressed. It has been a difficult week for those who are truly seeking justice for all, especially those who are oppressed. In discussing the situation, a man that I looked up to in High School made a cogent point: “As painful as the shootings in Charlotte and Tulsa have been, I think there is great opportunity for social progress, if all sides can be brave enough to confront the issues.” There are some, perhaps, who hope that the troubles will all blow over, and “we” can go back to our corner of the world, “they” can go back to their corner of the world, and hopefully, we will stop meeting like this.
I could have left out those last two words. There are some who might think we would be better off if “we” could just stop meeting “them.” We retreat into our own worlds, our own safe spaces, where we can criticize “them” from afar and never deal with the real issues of life. For a committed Christian, though, there is no “them.” There is only “us.” We live in this world with all people. We live in this world with a bunch of other sinners for whom Jesus died. When part of our own body is being oppressed, Jesus calls on us to make contact and build fellowship. “Then he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.’” (Luke 9:48)
The old proverb was that children should be seen and not heard. While the saying popped up in the 15th century, apparently, it was definitely a practice in the days of Jesus. When disciples argued over who the greatest disciple was, Jesus made a point of saying that those who humble themselves to love the forgettable are greatest in the kingdom of heaven. He didn’t talk about separation, He talked about building relationships. In an election year where greatness is being tossed around as a catchy slogan, Jesus cuts through the verbal fog and reminds us that true greatness lies in building relationships with those who seem to be the outcasts in society – the oppressed. True greatness for a country never lies in a segmented society with people living comfortably in their own separate worlds failing to confront the issues of oppression. It is too easy to sit back in our comfortable houses living the life of ease and miss the truth that oppression exists in our world. We must confront the issues head on. We must tear down those walls that separate us and remember that each oppressed person is someone for whom Jesus died. There is no room for racism or oppression in the kingdom of God.
We fight oppression and racism by acknowledging its existence. We listen to people “on the other side” of the issue so that we can learn and understand their fears. Here’s a hint though – you don’t take away someone’s fear by telling them how unjustified it is. You calm fears by showing the love of Christ. You calm fears by respecting those who are unlike you and listening to them. You calm fears by building relationships with them. We end oppression by breaking down those barriers and becoming one with them. It begins with me. It begins as I remember to look at each person I meet, regardless of skin color, regardless of social position, and realize that Jesus died for them as well. It begins when I recognize that if God sees each person as a special, unique creation of His, I can do no less. I think that if Jesus were to walk this earth today and repeat this illustration with the children, He would choose a group of children that included Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and Anglo children. If we truly seek to be great, we will welcome each child, and adult, in His name no matter what their color or social status.
Lord God, the troubles we are in right now are revealing either the beauty of loving You or the ugliness of fearful, bitter hearts in people. Help me to love and welcome others sincerely. May I welcome You by welcoming each person I see with Your grace and love.