Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Porch Stories: Jesus Loves

In her Porch Story Kristin Hill Taylor tells us about a painful incident with a social worker and she rejoices in the color-filled – and "other-filled" – variety of God's family all over this world and in the western Kentucky church her family attends; she calls her post Red and Yellow, Black and White.

porch stories: Jesus Loves

"During an interview with an adoption agency, a social worker grilled Greg and me about whether we could effectively parent a child who wasn't white. She questioned and prodded in ways that made it clear she didn't think we were capable.

"(In our small church) a teenager from Nepal, a son and daughter from Liberia, another boy from China call this place – their families, our church, this country – their homes ... I have white friends with black and brown babies.

"Sure, I notice people's skin color. I also notice their hair color, and T-shirts I like. I realize people come from different places, making them sound and look different. I didn't need my kids to look like me. Turns out, they do. But their skin tone wasn't a requirement for our family. And that's what I told the social worker years ago."

Jesus loves the little children / All the children of the world / Red and yellow, black and white / They are precious in His sight / Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Jesus' radically inclusive love got him in trouble on many occasions. People got more than outraged at his practice of forgiveness (only God can forgive sin... Jesus makes himself equal to God?!), but his consistently welcoming foreigners (outlanders – that's where we get "outlandish"), society's outcasts, and historical enemies of Israel was far too much for religious and political leaders. People even snarked at Jesus' loving welcome of little kids! God calls us to the same unconditional, outlandish(!), agape love that's more stable and enduring than affection and attraction, love that's often somewhat other than liking; Jesus shows us that love in action.

But in the workplace, in the church, and elsewhere, acceptance and embrace can become complicated. I've heard of churches and other organizations who are fine and happy with anyone who cares to join them, their endeavors, and their broader cause as long as those "anyones" do their best to look like, dress like, act like the majority in the group rather than remaining their culturally and ethnically unique selves. Those places in those cases don't truly welcome, appreciate or love the individual who's (ethnically, culturally, politically, educationally, etc.) not enough like "the rest of us."

Jesus loves all little children. jesus loves all humanity of every size, age, shape, hue, and ability. But everyone will not be interested in every activity or opportunity at a particular place. Our inability to please everyone every Sunday, each weekday, or with everything we offer doesn't mean we're excluding them; we can't be all things to all people, despite the apostle Paul's telling us he could be... wait! Maybe his famous conviction was figurative speech?

Jesus loves. Jesus loves everyone. Part of loving is to let people be who they are with their own predilections, desires, and style. God calls us to love and welcome everyone, but not to imagine we have any control over their response. We can do our best to include people how they are into where we are and trust God with the outcome, whether that means they'll return and participate, or if it means they'll seek another place to worship, re-create, be entertained. Or work. Hey, people, no guilt trips! It just may be more about their needs than it is about our behaviors.

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