In our church, whoever preaches on Sunday writes up a devotion with some follow up ideas and questions for consideration. This last sermon I had the pleasure of preaching alongside one of my students. Here is the devotion for this week:
ENCOUNTER: Read John 4
There is this strange thing that is common to all humans. We LOVE our friends, and HATE our enemies. But because we want to feel justified, we don't come right out and say we HATE our enemies, we get swept up in a more subtle and destructive sin. The sin of dehumanization. We "other" people, and by "othering" them we no longer have to consider them.
This is not new. Many people feel it more acutely right now because their political person just left or just got in, and the sin of dehumanization is the number one way in which the political parties are fighting these days. What is heartbreaking is when the church gets caught up in this tactic.
WE MUST RESIST THIS AT ALL COST!
Every part of Jesus' ministry was humanizing those who had been traditionally excluded and marginalized. Take this encounter Jesus had with the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus, a respected Jewish rabbi, clean and righteous, goes out of his way to engage wth this woman who has so many strikes against her in this culture. She was a woman, a Samaritan, and an adulterous.
In normal religious circles you could feel justified in marking her by identities and move on. In fact this is exactly what the religious leaders did, it is even what his disciples did. But that is NOT what Jesus did.
OUR THEOLOGY IS GENEROUS because it is not on Jesus' followers to erect barriers for people to come to Jesus. In fact, it is our job to do the exact opposite. We leverage all of our social and political capitol so those who have been marginalized and dehumanized are given dignity and respect because they are made in the image of God. And we work hard to help people encounter Jesus. Those of us who are followers of Christ are a tribe!! But our tribe does not exclude or shun. Our tribe is always seeking to find ways to care for people and invite them to move towards Christ.
JESUS IS FULL OF TRUTH AND GRACE! Our generosity causes us to love others where they are at and speak in ways that help them understand God better. Jesus does exactly that. Jesus was all grace towards this woman, while at the same time clear about her sin and clear about the nature of God.
For some reason we think truth and grace are mutually exclusive. We must, more and more, lean into this paradox. We have a theology that is fiercely directed towards Jesus and we take his teaching seriously. We must pick up our cross, daily die to our flesh and follow our Lord and Savior as he redeems, heals, and sanctifies us. AND AT THE SAME TIME, open our hearts, arms, and church to those who are outside of our tribe. To advocate for them, to give them dignity, and to be gracious and long suffering with them as they begin their path of moving towards Christ.
Who do you dehumanize? Why do you feel justified in that? (That is not a judgy question, we all do it, and by knowing why we feel justified in it will allow space for Jesus to work on us faster)
What power or privilege are you fearful of losing?
Own that loving groups and people outside of your tribe is not in our nature, but it is fully in the nature of God and we are in desperate need of the Holy Spirit for this work.
BE A BLESSING:
What would it look like to being to simply pray for your enemies? Those who you have been dehumanizing, pray that God would soften your heart and pray that God would give you His eyes towards them.
None of us want to be judged by our worst moment, so try and extend the grace that we expect for ourselves towards those people and groups who have hurt or wronged you.
Try standing up for a group or person who normally gets put down and dehumanized in your group of friends or family. You might be encouraged by what that does in your heart and with your conversations.
Find someone you can talk openly about this with and have them hold you accountable. Loving outside our tribe is really difficult, but it is what we are called to do. We don't have to erect walls and defend our tribe at all cost. Our theology compels us to be generous in the love and grace we extend towards others, even those outside our tribe, even our enemies.