Still reading? If you are you might be surprised to see that by the end of this post you’ll see why I have decided to not disassociate myself with them or disown them from the body of Christ.
Still reading? Okay…here we go.
After reading this passage in Mark 7:1-23 with a group of college students something crazy happened. My judgement turned to compassion. Funny how that happens while reading scripture humbly in community. Also, by the way, it is often times very disorienting how that happens when reading scripture humbly in community.
In this passage the Pharisees are livid with Jesus because he allows his disciples to break the traditions of their elders by not washing their hands before they eat. They says, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”
Jesus responds by saying, “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you?…It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”
My question to the college kids I was with was was this: What would be a modern day equivalence of this story?
We wrestled with this question a lot, not really being able to think of anything when one of the kids asked, “What about Westboro Baptist?” He explained saying, “We feel like all their hate signs, protesting, and hurting of people has given us the right to disassociate with them. You know, think of them as “unclean” in the body of believers. According to Jesus, it’s not the signs that are the problem, it’s their hearts right?”
In my opinion, our Family’s (the family of God) biggest black eye, was just humanized by a 20 year old trying to authentically apply the teachings of Jesus into our modern worldviews. How annoying. But I couldn’t argue. I believe he’s mostly right.
Does Jesus hate when we hurt others? Unquestionably yes. Did Jesus come to propagate an views and practices of peace, love, reconciliation, and justice that are inline with the realities of Heaven? Absolutely. Does he stand idly by while people are persecuted, marginalized, and belittled? NEVER! But Jesus is also not about the business of revenge or abandonment.
Since that Monday I’ve combed through the Gospels and have yet to find a single encounter when people brought problems to Jesus that focused on external problems where Jesus did not refocus their attention on internal heart problems. The woman at the well thought because of who she was, what she was, she couldn’t speak to Jesus only to have Jesus chose to revealed his great plan and identity to her before anyone else. Pharisees condemn the act of working on the Sabbath then he calls into question their compassion? A paralyzed man is brought by friends to be healed; then Jesus heals hearts and legs. Saul imprisons and murders followers of Jesus; then Jesus murders the hatred in Saul’s heart.
As followers of Jesus we accept a unimaginable history of radical compassion and grace. We are to have eyes like Christ who sees our broken outward actions as symptoms of broken hearts. This is good news to all men, women, and children because we can never “out-hate” or “out-hurt” a person or group. But when we choose to allow ourselves to be moved with such compassion that we call upon the God to heal hearts through his Son, regardless of their outward labels or actions, we put out ourselves in great company. The company of the saints before us who changed lives and worlds through Jesus. Yet even greater company than this, we put ourselves in the company of men and women who stood at the foot of the cross watching Jesus pay the greatest price in the wildest act of compassion and grace for the most undeserving people of all time, you and me.
Do I condone what Westboro Baptist does? No. But I also recognize that my own church has great brokenness in our outward expressions of faith and that these are no more or less fundamental symptoms of our misunderstanding of God’s love for us and the world around us. On a more personal level, what about the transgender guy who I always see at my coffee shop or the neighbor who relentlessly makes my life more difficult. I definitely have preconceived reasons as to why they should be kept at a distance. But are their outward expressions any more or less of a reason for heart level compassion than the ways my brokenness manifests itself publicly?
This week my prayer is that when my default worldview sees the outward labels of people or hurtful actions of those around me, I will be moved toward pray and care for them on a heart level and forgo my assumed right to hurt or dismiss them.
Evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. These are symptoms of a broken heart. I’m so thankful how Jesus has compassion on us and transforms our hearts so that we may have right actions because we could never have grace and compassion like Jesus on our own.