Today I am humbled. And angry. I am humbled by God’s grace. I am angry at those who thwart His grace and His good name.
My favorite Sunday of the month is the one when I get to come alongside a small group of people from my church and fill plastic bags with chips, cookies and water. We pick up six pizzas and head toward the center of the city. We automatically walk toward the gray benches where our neighbors sit, restless and lethargic in the summer’s tired heat. We say three little words, and their eyes light up like lightning bugs. “Are you hungry?” Thirty meals go too quickly, but the impression left on our hearts by God’s grace does not. It stays. So do the words of our neighbors. For weeks, after our smidgen of time with them, I hear these words: “Can you pray that I can be healed from Schizophrenia?”…”Can you pray that I can find a job and get off the streets?”…”I just got out of prison a few weeks ago. Can you pray that I can get back on my feet and live a good life?”…”Can you pray that my 7 year old son won’t hate me? I’ve never met him, but I want to.” The words are echoed in my comfortable life, shaking a bit of selfishness out of my self-absorbed heart.
Today, as we neared Uptown with our bags of food and boxes of pizza, we noticed barricades blocking off roads. My eyes tried to take in the surroundings, wondering what sort of event we were walking into. My heart fell when my wandering eyes landed on a sign. “God hates gay pride.” Next to this was a man holding a large white cross, shouting things like “Jesus is going to crush you into the ground! Jesus hates gay people!” Oh mercy. What are we doing here? I silently thought as we worked our way through the crowds, looking for our neighbors on their gray benches. I felt like I had been uplifted from my bubble of comfort, and plopped in the middle of a parading war zone.
As we walked on, my mind began to shed its fear. I wasn’t out of place, after all. I realized that if I could be anywhere in this city at 1:00p.m. on this Sunday, I wanted to be here- at this parade, carrying my share of the load of food for hungry friends. The Jesus I know would be at this parade, too- not holding a big white cross, shouting hateful word vomit, but loving on people. He wouldn’t see them as “gay people”, he would see them as people people, and he would love them just as much as he loves me or you.
I felt sick and…well….pissed walking past those men who were defaming the name of Christ, and when the sickness wore off, I felt pity for them; for their hardened hearts, which could read such a life-giving gospel and get it so completely WRONG.
Though we weren’t declaring the love of Christ with a big sign or booming voices, I think the five of us, who were quietly weaving in and out of the crowds with our pizza boxes, left a little trail of Jesus in that place. It didn’t take a lot of work, or a lot of words, just a bit of love. When we were empty handed, we lined up on the sidewalk to watch the parade.
As a Christian, I believe that we must be gracious in whom we accept and limited in what we celebrate. We can accept an individual without celebrating his lifestyle. But here’s the thing…”What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” 1 Corithinthians 5:12a
I hope that each of the parade-goers has an opportunity to meet someone who hasn’t gotten the gospel backwards; who love and follow Jesus and His entire message for humanity, rather than taking one or two verses out of context and making it their life’s mission to hate others. I also hope that if you are a fellow Christ-follower, that you check your heart and make sure it’s spreading the message of love. Our family has been memorizing this verse this week: “The three most important things are faith, hope, and love, but the most important of these is LOVE,” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (italics are mine).
Love. To my gay friends, Jesus loves YOU. To my homeless neighbors, Jesus loves YOU. To my arch-nemesis with the hate-filled poster boards, Jesus loves YOU. And amazingly, though I know the depths of depravity in my own heart, Jesus loves ME.
That is all.