“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
We went to church this Sunday with our best friends Keith and Jen. I’ve been a Christian since I can remember. I was raised in church. I was baptized when I was 12. I have a bible with my name on it. My parents sang in church, my grandparents sang in church and church has just been a part of my life, all my life. My momma took me to church every time the doors opened. Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, vacation bible school, etc. When I was young I never questioned what I was being told. I was taught that my denomination was the only true denomination. I was taught that not only was everyone not in church on Sunday going to hell, but everyone that wasn’t in a church of my denomination was going to hell as well (my church even taught that a lot of the people in my church were going to hell so I’d better be exceptionally scared!). I thought everyone who sat on the front row, or was old, or had a bigger bible, or who wasn’t me was guaranteed to go to Heaven and I was just lost. There was a secret code or something and I didn’t have it. God was scary because he was already mad at me. I was doomed from the start and I was supposed to spend my life playing ‘catch-up’, trying to ‘fix’ myself and that was something that could really never be done, but I’d better try forever!
I got older, I strayed. I was under my own choice and I quit going to church. I missed Wednesdays first, then Sunday nights and then it was a small leap to missing Sunday mornings. Late Saturday nights full of ‘sin’ made Sundays easy to sleep through. As an ‘adult’ my first exercise of my ‘maturity’ was to stop going altogether. God’s already mad at me, I’m not perfect, even though I know ‘right from wrong’ I still do ‘wrong’ so I’m sure I’m doomed.
Interestingly, for all of the ‘holiness’ that I didn’t posses and was constantly being drilled into me, when I started missing church, no one from my church ever called to ask if I was okay or why I wasn’t coming to church. Not one of the people, that I was sure were going to Heaven, ever tried to help me ‘find my way’. That’s not an accusation, it’s just interesting in hindsight.
I got older, I started to read books and question everything. I still doubt algebra. I doubt that not having good typing skills will stand in the way of me finding work. I was never good in school ( The only thing Ms. Sonya Ingram, my third grade teacher, and quite possibly the meanest, worst teacher in the universe, taught me was to hate school. Thanks Ms. Ingram, wherever you are.), by the time I realized that mistake (long after I had graduated from school), I started trying to compensate in every area, including religion. I read the bible. I read it again. I still believed in God, I still believed in Jesus. I believe that he is the son of God, sent to earth to die for our sins. I still want to go to Heaven. I want my family to go to Heaven. I want my friends to go to Heaven. I want you to go to Heaven. I’m still not perfect. I won’t ever be. I read about a Jesus that turned water into wine. I read about a Jesus that ate with prostitutes and tax collectors. I read about a Jesus that spent more time with the ‘imperfect’ than the ‘perfect’. I read about a Jesus that said;<‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’>
Some things seem to stick with you and that verse stuck with me. I started to realize that while I had been taught that; <...God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. > God created people in His image, I had treated that verse as a figure of speech. “Surely God didn’t mean all people, just the ‘good’ people.” ‘People who had a job, who weren’t addicted to drugs or alcohol, people who didn’t ‘sin’, people who were ‘perfect’. ‘ I was sure that God had created ‘special’ people in his image to try and guide the way of the rest of us ‘sinful savages’.
I got older, my ‘black and white’ world started to get some gray in it. My politics changed. My philosophies changed. My view of the world changed. I have friends who are different from me in philosophy. They don’t see things like I see them. They might be a different denomination, they might be a different culture, they might have different politics, they might even be vegetarians(!) they might be a lot of things but they are my friends and I love them. Some of my older friends think I’m a ‘lefty’ or a borderline socialist! I have some younger friends who haven’t found the ‘gray’ yet. It’s easy for them to see right and wrong. They can judge moral issues better than I can. Or at least easier than I can. In their eyes, foreigners, homosexuals, vegetarians, addicts, democrats, people that drive foreign cars, etc. are wrong and if they (or anyone purporting to be representing them) offend us, we should destroy them. I just can’t find that black and white anymore. It’s just not easy for me to say to someone; “you don’t like the Titans, or hot sauce, or Jimi Hendrix, you are going to hell!” I try, not always successfully, to see their side. Or at least accept them for who they are.
I’ve kind of gotten off the point. The point is I went to a church today that had a ‘crazy idea’. That’s what the preacher said anyway. He said; “We’re going to do something really crazy today...” I’m a visitor, so I’m mentally saying; :Oh no!! What’s going on here? I just want to hear a little sermon and get out of here in time to eat lunch and watch the Titans play!” The crazy thing was this; They handed out a sheet of paper with a shopping list on it. Instead of a sermon, they dismissed the service so that the entire congregation could go shopping and fill trucks with items to donate to a family center for families in need. No sermon, no collection plate, in fact, they specified that a collection would NOT be taken so that that money could go to the Family Center. In all my Christian life I never felt like I was closer to the true intent of Jesus than that moment; doing for someone who has less. Doing for the least of these. Giving! My family and I had the best Sunday I can remember. The title of the sermon was “Be The Sermon”. I took that to mean, if you are a Christian, if you say you’re a Christian, go do something “Christlike”. Go help someone else. Don’t just mouth the words and call it a day, go act! Don’t spend your time pointing out to someone how they are falling short or failing. One of my favorite gospel songs says;You may run and hide, slip and slide
Trying to take the mote from your neighbour's eyes
As sure as God made the rich and poor You gonna reap just what you sow” . I fall short all the time. I fell short later the same day. I will forget to be that Christian tomorrow but I pray that I will at least try and remember to be a better version of myself.
No matter what your beliefs are, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. at least agree with me that we can be better to our neighbors. Be kinder. Be gentler. Try and be more understanding. Try and be more forgiving. Be an example of what we want to see in the world. It doesn’t have to cost us anything and you never know, it might just turn out to be the best day you’ve ever had!
Thanks to Maury Hills Church Of Christ for showing me and my family a fantastic Sunday!