I challenge you
to look beyond the label
you give me,
I challenge you to see me
as I am;
created by God,
made in Her image,
fashioned by His design
I am a walking talking work of art;
I feel and bleed…
I love and laugh…
If you were to see me
and not the label you have given me,
we might talk and laugh,
and love together.
Jesus calls us to a life of love- he received the untouchable, the unlovable, the outcast- he calls us in loving our neighbour as ourselves to do the same; questioned about who is our neighbour he responds with a parable; The Good Samaritan- a parable where the outcast becomes the neighbour- and the apparent neighbour turns away and ignores the situation.
How do we respond as Christians to those whose spirituality, sexuality, lifestyle, ability/ disability is radically different from our own.
Do we turn away?
Although we may not actively persecute them...
Do we simply ignore them by being inaccessible?
How many of our buildings prevent people physical disabilities from worshipping as a part of the gathered community?
Do we truly care; are we even aware of the needs of those who are different from ourselves?
How closed minded are we?
How do we respond to nightly news broadcasts speaking of disaster famine or war, do we see the people behind the images?
Do we allow our lifestyles to be challenged by the plight of those living in the Developing Countries around the world or are we simply content to buy products at a cheap price- a price that may impoverish them but benefits us ( or does it)?
Are we secure enough in our faith to listen with honesty and integrity to the questions of others, are we open enough to change and grow?
Do we recognise God in the face and voice of the "other"- are we willing to love them as we love ourselves? Do we truly love ourselves if we turn away from them? Surely in doing so we are diminished....
This year great celebrations are taking place commemorating the abolition of the North Atlantic Slave Trade,the film . Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce may serve only to bolster our egos about the good that has been done if we do not take seriously the issues that slavery is still a huge problem in the world today- and that there is something we can do about it.
If we are to take the problem of persecution seriously I suggest that we in the west need to attend to the plank in our own eye! Tim Abbot has suggested that too often we name as persecution that which is not persecution, and fail to recognise those who are persecuted by our own neglect, may I suggest that we also fail to support and recognise the plight and strength of our sisters and brothers in Christ around the world who face persecution on a daily basis- they are not "other" because they are far away!
How then do we apply our hard and cold hearts to the issue and problem of persecution? I wonder if the answer lies in recognising the grace of God? God who in his mercy has chosen to love and forgive us- who has shown us the full extent of His love for us in Christ- giving himself completely on the cross- overcoming death itself to rise again.... in this we are called to follow, to lay aside our selfish desires, and dying to self to choose to live and move and "be" in the power and strength of the love of God- finding freedom as we give ourselves to that love, as we immerse ourselves in grace....
People of grace do not live exclusive lives, rather they reflect the love of God, the love that includes all who would receive it, and yearns for the love of those who turn away...
To see humanity in the face of the other is to see God, to love the other is to love God, to live a life of grace is to reflect God's life to the world.
Lord in the strength of grace
With a glad heart and free,
Myself, my residue of days,
I consecrate to thee.
Thy ransomed servant, I
Restore to thee Thine own;
And from this moment live or die
To serve my God alone.