Drop Your Differences

How many of you have had to unfriend or unfollow friends or family members because of things they have posted on Facebook? You can’t see it from where you are sitting, but I am raising my hand. I hope it doesn’t shock you to know that I have even unfollowed (never unfriended) church members.

For those of you not on Facebook, this means that I no longer see their posts, but I remain ”friends” with them. But am I really? I tell myself that I am doing this for my peace of mind, as some folks post things that get me riled up. But it doesn’t say much about me that I can simply cut them off in that way. On the other hand, when I see them on Sundays, I don’t recall ten offensive things that they posted during week. Perhaps this ensures that my approach to them can be open and without hesitation. Is it better not to know?

A healthier way to handle these things would be to have a real life conversation and see if we could establish places of agreement, or at least try to drop our differences. Understanding someone’s perspective can lessen the sting of disagreement. You may never think alike, but understanding how someone came to their opinion can open up a relationship. And it’s biblical.

The truth is, we are constantly assessing each other by external things. Physical appearance, the size of our homes and cars, the things we put on social media, the amount of jewelry we wear, the kind of company we keep … these are the metrics by which we evaluate one another.

But is that the way God desires us to behave? Is that the way God evaluates us?

2 Corinthians (The Message)

16-20 Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new.

Paul reminds us that God looks upon the heart, and so should we. We are called to look beyond the superficial things and really consider the quality underneath.

I dearly love a man who posts things that make me roll my eyes and shake my head. But his capacity for helping people in need is enormous. He is willing to extend himself to the marginalized in ways that impact the kingdom. He allows God to use him in places where I would dare not go. When I see a post that raises the hair on the back of my neck, I need to remember these things.

The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives.

This is a powerful teaching. We are Christ’s representatives in the world. How are you doing with that? Can people see Jesus in your interactions? Can others feel the power of God’s love through what you say and do? Are your posts winning others to the Kingdom?

God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

This hit me hard today, because I would rather not engage with people who think differently than me. This is wrong. God persuades us to drop those differences and join together in an effort to make things right. Will we ever agree? Nope. Do we have enough in common to build upon? Yep. I need to remember that any friend of God is a friend of mine.

21 How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.

Let us move forward in this Lent season and work to make things right between us.

Friends of a Feather by Michelle Robertson

A Scepter of Equity

Weddings these days are full of “adaptations.” It is not unusual for those of us who officiate weddings to be surprised with the addition of a reading, poem, or speech that is not part of our normal written liturgy. Sometimes these inclusions enhance the moment….sometimes they don’t. The best of these for me was when a sister read a beautiful poem called These are the Hands about the meaning and beauty of marriage. The worst was a time when I was told that the best man would do a “reading,” and instead he spent about ten drunken minutes talking about the groom’s bawdy behavior in college. He did acknowledge that the bride outshone all those previous girlfriends, however. Yes, this happened during the ceremony, not the reception. I just stood there with my mouth open. After that, I have been careful to ask to see the “readings” before we start. Lord, have mercy!

Our unusual Psalm today is thought to be written as a wedding reading. The king is getting married, and a poem has been written to mark the event:

Psalm 45 (New Revised Standard Version)

My heart overflows with a goodly theme;
    I address my verses to the king;
    my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.

You are the most handsome of men;
    grace is poured upon your lips;
    therefore God has blessed you forever.

The psalmist then waxes eloquently about the king being a god, yet anointed by God with the oil of gladness. The writer of Hebrews later connects these verses with Jesus as the messiah, and many commentators see a foretelling of the coming Jewish messiah in these words:

Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.
    Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity;
    you love righteousness and hate wickedness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;
    your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
    daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor;
    at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.

If we connect the dots from this writing to Jesus, one of the things that stand out the most is the phrase “scepter of equity.” The king’s scepter is a visual representation of his power. He points it, and people respond by doing his bidding. So what does it mean to have a scepter of equity?

Merriam-Webster defines equity as justice according to natural law or right: specifically, freedom from bias or favoritism.

That sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it? He, who invited a prostitute, working class men, immigrants, women, non-Jews, and even a lowly TAX COLLECTOR to follow him surely is the king of equity.

As people who live under the rule of his scepter, do we offer equity in his name? Are our churches, synagogues, temples, and cathedrals places of inclusion or exclusion? Would Jesus feel welcome in our homes?

These are important considerations for us as we collectively wait for Jesus to return. As we pray “Come, Lord Jesus, come,” we need to be sure our places of worship and our homes are ones that would actually welcome him in.

May we be preparing our hearts and homes for Jesus, and all whom Jesus loves. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Come, Lord Jesus! By Kathy Schumacher

Judging With Equity

Let’s talk about the word EQUITY. Miriam-Webster offers this definition: justice according to natural law or right, specifically freedom from bias or favoritism.

Equity is the goal of institutions that strive to break down barriers built on prejudice, privilege, and preconceptions born in bias. I serve on a committee established to address diversity, equity, and inclusion at my alma mater and it has been an eye-opener in regard to calling out institutional bias and favoritism. My daughter just cast a vote to eliminate preferential treatment of ”legacy” granddaughters, sisters, and daughters of alumnae in her sorority. The sorority’s national council is proposing that legacies should be discontinued, as this practice contributes to a lack of equity and is a barrier to the inclusion of minority women.

Equity is a biblical concept as well. In Psalm 96 we see the statement that God will judge the people with equity.

Psalm 96 (New Revised Standard Version)

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!
    The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
    He will judge the peoples with equity.”

If the Lord judges with equity, that suggests that he watches and evaluates his people’s behavior without bias or favoritism. He doesn’t see color. He doesn’t see privilege. He doesn’t see economic status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, or even past history.

God sees the heart in its current state and make assessments based on that clear and unbiased vision.

Oh, if only his children could do likewise! Let’s face it…we all judge people as well. But rarely do we judge with equity. If we could, all of the division we experience right now would disappear. All of the hate, the prejudice, the profiling, and the anger would be replaced with joy. The earth would rejoice at the harmony that equity would produce.

11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
    let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12     let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13     before the Lord; for he is coming,
    for he is coming to judge the earth.

Friends if you long for this, just wait. When the Lord returns equity will be the rule of law. There will be no more division…only his righteousness and truth.

He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with his truth.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

Let The Heavens Be Glad by Michelle Robertson