“Grace happens when my definition of them gets narrower and narrower and my definition of us gets broader and broader.” – Scott Sauls
Unless you have been living in a cave lately you are well aware of the crisis in Syria. Because of their civil war, millions of families have been forced to relocate. The biggest human crisis since Hitler’s Holocaust is happening right now. Countries all over the world are opening their doors to these refugees and humanitarian aid groups are working overtime to set up relief centers and camps. In America many are donating money and temporarily opening up their homes to house Syrian refugees. No city in America is helping more than the city in which I live: Nashville. Learning this gives me a strong sense of pride that my city is stepping up and doing real work that is making a huge difference in the lives of these poverty-stricken and displaced peoples. My church alone is donating $50,000 this week to the effort.
The problem is that not everyone is caring. Some are less concerned about helping and more concerned about their own comfort and security. Governments are obligated to make sure there own citizens are not negatively effected by a huge influx of refugees and often turn away people that are in extreme need. Most of us either don’t know how to help or don’t really care. We might be temperarily motivated to help by a moving commercial that tugs on our heart strings but five minutes later we go back to thinking solely of what things we need to make our life as comfy and cozy as possible. The “have’s” cannot truly relate to the “have nots.” If we could all experience, just for a day, what its like to be poor, to be displaced or to face uncertainty daily; we would know why active compassion is so crucial for a progressive society.
Jesus was a refugee. Rejected by everyone. A social outcast without a home. Someone that knew what poverty, uncertainty and displacement feels like. He could identify with such people because he lived it and he died for them. But before he died he modeled what equality looks like by serving all those who sought Him out. Jesus never turned people away. His gospel was perfect and part of what makes it so amazing is the inclusiveness of it. At the banquet table with the King, there are no VIP seating and no one is left out in the cold. We are all welcome and there is a spot for us all, no matter how rich or how poor. What makes us qualified to receive a seat at His table is our unqualifiedness.
I am but a poor man
“Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.” – Matthew 5:3
I used to be rich. I was a spiritual tycoon. I said all the right things, went to church regularly and led a number of Bible studies. I went on mission trips, knew all there is to know about Christian music, went to a Christian high school and university and taught 10 years in three different Christian schools. I had it all and wasted it away. Like a professional athlete who blows through all of his money and is forced to file for bankruptcy, I hit rock bottom. I am the prodigal son. I have lived the highest highs and the lowest lows. Because of my brush with spiritual poverty, I am in a unique position. I see very clearly the need for the rich to care for the poor. The church is rich with resources and full of people that know what the Bible says. Yet many of them don’t want to get their hands dirty. That would be inconvenient. It’s inconvenient to forgive someone who has done the despicable. It’s uncomfortable to sit next to someone who reeks of sin. The reality, however, is that there is no upper class. We all deserve death. None of us are worthy to eat at the King’s banquet table. There are no spiritually elites. No one is better than another. Your sin of gossip or pride is no better than my sin of sexual addiction. The justification of shunning your brother because of what they have done is not what Jesus modeled. It’s what the Pharisees preached. But the Pharisees weren’t very happy. I am happier now as a poor man than I ever have in my spiritual journey. Its a bit ironic and maybe even a little sad that I’ve taken this road to happiness but the fact is despite the pain I am finding true happiness and joy is all around.
So given my current position, I really struggle with people that claim to follow Christ’s example but live an elitist legalistic spiritual life. They want grace for themselves in order to secure their salvation but can’t extend that grace to others. Back when I was rich, I lived this way to an extent. I am so ashamed that I would judge others while I lived a dreadfully sinful life. I now pity those who do the same. It’s not at all what God wants and it’s just as shameful as the sin that you are judging in others. I am working through the reality that people who I thought were my Christian brothers and sisters have turned their back on me because of my sin. The one person who I have DIRECTLY hurt has forgiven me. She is showing compassion and kindness at the moment. There are others who I have not hurt directly who will probably never speak to me again. After getting to know addicts who have caused pain to others, I have noticed a common theme. The theme is addicts truly understand grace. We extend it easier than the spiritual elite.
So when we are all together in paradise eating at the King’s feast, much to the chagrine of the spiritually elite, there will be no class system. Much to the delight of the addicts, the prostitutes, the thieves and the adulterers; we don’t have to eat the leftovers in the back kitchen. We will be sipping fine wine with everyone else. I can’t wait to see everyone because I will know a lot of people at the table – rich and poor alike.