As Christians we believe in equality…. right? We all like the idea of equality, but do I actually believe that no man is better or worse than I. Do I believe what the Bible preaches:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”
– John 13:16
In the new covenant brought out by Christ none of us is worth more or less than the other. We all are deemed valuable by the fact that God loves each of us enough for Christ to have died for us. Even when Peter is being a little sexist by today’s standards he is still calling for a realization that no one is higher than his brother or sister in the kingdom of God.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
– 1 Peter 3:7
Anyone who has even a basic knowledge of the culture of first century Palestine knows that Jesus was a game changer. He saw the outcast, the filth, and the losers as being worth his time. He loved the poor, the sick, the unclean, and those who could do him no favors. He loved those that could only hurt his reputation and social standing, even by merely associating with them. He didn’t just speak to them he shared meals with them (a sign of respect, forgiveness, and good will) and invested in them. Christ knew we were all broken, messed up, and shameful sinners and in he preferred to be with those who knew this better than anyone else. Nothing seems to have bothered Christ more than when a sinner paraded himself around like he was somehow above the others, and nothing seemed to move Christ more than a repentant heart and a humble disposition. Since we are to imitate Christ, we are likewise called to be servants and to serve rather than be served.
For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
– Luke 22:27
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
– Romans 12:10-11
The question I have to ask myself constantly is why am I constantly failing at this. I know I’m a sinner saved by grace, but do I really live in that knowledge. The prostitutes, the outcasts, and the dirt poor of Christ’s day knew exactly what they were. They had no illusions of grandeur or reason to assume the world owes them anything. It makes sense that when a Rabbi came into town who wasn’t going to turn them away or scold them they all flocked to him. Jesus drew quite a rag-tag crowd wherever he went, but the only ones who left disappointed were people like the rich young ruler and the pharisees.
Those that were proud had a hard time with Christ and his message. They had worked to gain their high place of stature and didn’t like the notion of losing it. To stoop down to a level of equality with the poor and desolate was beyond them. They were happy with the class system and didn’t like this spiritual leader coming in and rocking the boat.
The scary part is I think more often than not I am among the second group. While not rich (by American standards) I have far more than I need. Yet in spite of being blessed abundantly more than I deserve, I guarantee you I would think twice before giving more than a dollar or two to the homeless people I pass on the street. Heck, I feel down right good about myself if I reach in my pocket and give them the spare change I was probably going to lose in my couch cushions anyways. I can’t remember the last time I gave until it hurt. If I’m too selfish to part with that $20 in my pocket to buy food for the bums under the bridge then how can I expect to follow the Lord who asked the rich young ruler to sell his things and follow him.
Don’t think having nice things is bad. I’m not calling us all to take up vows of poverty. I am saying that I think the problem is that I, in my heart of hearts, do not see any of those homeless people as my equal. I think giving my scraps of change or an occasional burger king value meal is somehow me doing a great service. I’m putting out minimum effort and thinking I deserve to get praised. I won’t go out of my bubble of comfort to help my fellow human being any more than I feel I can spare. I don’t think I’ve ever cared to know who any of them are or where any of them come from.
If I saw each of them as more like a brother and less like a wild animal that I throw a sandwich that I don’t want at, then maybe I would be a little better at this ministry thing. Let’s stop giving the minimum amount of time, effort, and resources. Let’s stop giving until we don’t feel guilty and start giving because we love. Let’s be servants. It’s what we were called to do. I’m going to commit to this and I hope you do too.
“If there is no friendship with the poor and no sharing of the life of the poor, then there is no authentic commitment to liberation, because love exists only among equals “
– Gustavo Gutierrez