imagine the scene :: jesus had just finished what is now his best known teaching – the sermon on the mount – a practical manifesto for this new Way. the dry heat of the galilean sun beat down on the son of man as he and the disciples descended the mountain. the amazed crowds follow through the dust kicked up by this rogue rabbi who taught differently than the others - this one spoke like he actually knew what he was talking about.
he had just touched on nearly everything, and their heads must have been spinning as they tried to make sense of it all – the benefits of living for an unseen kingdom; how to pray with meaning; turning the law of moses on its head and replacing its rigidity with a law of love.
who was this guy, anyway?!?
key phrases still lingered in the ears of the listeners, now making their way down the rocky path.
‘treat people the same way you would like to be treated.’
‘don’t judge until your own life is free from dirt.’
‘don’t just love those who look, act and think like you – love your enemies, too.’
as the Great Teacher led the way down the mountain, perhaps in an effort to put skin on his words, matthew in his gospel describes a leper approaching.
one who is unclean. rejected. perhaps even sinful.
from beyond the borders of community the outcast approaches, asking if this ‘christ’ would be willing to make him clean. and what does the rabbi do?
he touches him.
this leper’s dying flesh was literally eating away at him, and jesus breaks jewish custom and law, reaches out his hand and touches the man.
in front of the crowds who followed him, watching.
his contact immediately brings healing and restoration – life to that which was dead. the leper’s flesh becomes made new, surging with the power and the energy of a life of love.
i wonder what his followers thought. i wonder if this encounter changed how they viewed the next leper they saw, shunned by the masses as he crawled through the crowds declaring, ‘unclean! unclean! i don’t belong!’
i wonder if it changes us.
i am convinced the seeming inability of many christians to appropriately engage in conversation with the LGBT community is merely symptomatic of a much deeper issue – how we view ‘the Other.’
but the issue is not homosexuality. we do the same with muslims and hindus, with atheists and agnostics. we do it with christians that think differently regarding baptism or remarriage, or those who get a little too charismatic when their favorite worship song is played. we’re on constant alert for those with whom we disagree -those with whom we are disgusted. we criticize, marginalize, ostracize and dehumanize.
the issue is…us.
we struggle to put the words and message of christ into action with anyone who thinks differently than us. far too often our churches and conversation demand conformity prior to connection, and rob the Other of their dignity as God’s beloved instead.
in so doing, we lock ourselves into the worst caricatures of christianity, earning the reputation that plagues self-proclaimed followers of christ in our culture :: hypocritical. judgmental. anti-gay. unloving.
what would happen if we stretched out our hands and touched the Other? what would it look like to learn to love like jesus – even with those who believe and behave differently? even our so-called ‘enemies?’
i bet our reputation would be different.
what do you think?