[reprinted from September 5, 2012]
The rich and poor have this in common:
The Lord made them both. Proverbs 22:2 (NLT)
My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? James 2:1 (NLT)
The topic of the lectionary texts this week is one that has me with the Holy Spirit and asking for His “scan” over my heart. What do I really think and feel about people? Is what comes out of my mouth what I am really thinking and feeling? I do not want to be a “closet bigot.”
My mother liked a clean and neat home. My bedroom did not always reflect that philosophy. My mother would frequently tell me on Saturday that I could not go out and play or go to events until my room was clean and neat. There were a few times when I succeeded in stuffing everything in my closet and quickly shutting the door. All looked neat when she checked the room. My closet was disgusting! That’s what I mean by a closet bigot. I can say all the right things, make nice with everyone, and yet in my heart, I am sarcastic and mean.
As I have moved among different fellowships I have learned a lot about the subtle ways I can send “welcome” signals by my facial expression and body language as well as shunning someone. When I walk into a classroom or sanctuary, do I gravitate toward the homeless person on the back row or sit with my friends or chose to sit by myself? What heart message am I sending?
Matthew 15:21-28 tells the same story as Mark 7 and expands a bit more. First, Jesus acts like maybe I would: “You aren’t like me. You don’t believe like I do. I will walk right past you and ignore your need.” Then He justifies His actions, like I do, by explaining His “holy mission” to take care of God’s children. And He is deciding who is and isn’t God’s child. Is that my job? Finally, Jesus shows me that it isn’t about a person’s pedigree but about their need and faith. It may be a weak, tiny bit of faith but Jesus will respond. Do I have eyes to see and ears to hear a cry for help?
I have a friend who wrote a wonderful book that stepped all over my toes. It’s called Soup Kitchen for the Soul. She shares her experience as she, begrudgingly, began volunteering at a soup kitchen as part of a class requirement. She asks What if through out the book and I was remembering that as I read these Scriptures. What if I opened myself to moving into places outside my comfort zone? What if I got to know people who were “different” than my friends and family? What if I said “Yes” to opportunities that Jesus opened to me? What if that is where I would meet my Savior, up close and personal?
Healing Rain written by Martin Smith and Michael W. Smith