You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Those of you who think you’re always right are annoying to those of us who are.” Even though it’s usually said in jest, there is a great burden in always being right. First of all, you have to tell everyone what is right and what is wrong; then you must make sure that those people who are wrong are corrected – especially on Facebook; and finally, you must make sure that everyone knows that you were right from the beginning. The hardest thing about that is you should try to be humble as you do these things so that people don’t start thinking that you’re insufferable. (If anyone has any hints on how to do that, I would appreciate them.)
The Jews in Jesus’ day had that burden. They were the Chosen People of God, and by calling had the responsibility to always be right – at least on religious matters. One of those religious matters was that as the Chosen People of God, there were no others who could relate to God. They fought against the pantheism of the Greeks and the Romans. They dealt with the idolatry of the people around them. They were the ones who were right. “Others” had always led the people of God astray. There was no room for “others” in their beliefs. Jesus upset that belief and practice by showing love to “others” outside the Jewish religion. Then, when Paul was testifying about his mission he committed a cardinal sin in the eyes of the Jews. He declared that God wanted the message of salvation brought even to the Gentiles. “The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, ‘Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!’” (Acts 22:22)
One of the most interesting traits of God is that He is open to all people who will turn to Him. Many people attribute that aspect of God’s love to the New Testament only, but, if God never changes, we would see some indication in the Old Testament also. As God spoke about the need for justice for the outcasts, He included the need to care for foreigners. He talked about showing hospitality to the aliens among the Israelites. The idea that God cares for people who are not (yet) of the family of faith is a well-established biblical principle. Jesus cared for and healed people who were not Jews. God sent Peter, and then Paul to those who were outside the Jewish family, the Gentiles. God loves those who are strangers to the faith and wants to see them come into relationship with Him also. This is why people throughout the ages have left the comfort of home and traveled to near and distant lands to tell others about Jesus.
We are reminded today that no one is outside the sphere of God’s love, grace, and mercy. As followers of Christ, we are not called to pick and choose who deserves to be with God; God has already decreed that the gospel is for people of all nations. If we really believe that, it should make a difference in how we deal with others. As we look at the political situation today, I have seen people get into terrible arguments over candidates. While we should pray and seek God’s wisdom about who to vote for, we must also admit to ourselves, and others, that we could be wrong. Is God more concerned about which candidate wins, or about how we, as followers of Christ, share His love? Do we enter into a relationship with God as a result of faith in Christ and having the right political affiliation or by having faith in Christ? When it comes to living in our world today, who can we put down because they are not fit to live because of their lifestyle, their worship practices, or their stated beliefs? The answer, which should be obvious, is no one. The grace of God is available to all as He will mold each of us into His image if we are willing to let Him.
O Lord, it is so easy to forget that You love people who are not like me. Remind me that Your grace is available to all people. Let me have Your heart for sharing that love and grace with others.