In 1978, Alexander Solzhenitsyn addressed the graduating class at Harvard saying, “Many of you have already found out what others will find out in the course of their lives that truth eludes us as soon as our concentration begins to flag, all the while leaving the illusion that we are continuing to pursue it.” I believe this holds true for the Western Church today. Much like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, we have heaped rules and regulations onto the teachings of Christ. In the centuries that have followed His death, Christianity has often looked little like its namesake. Instead of being an all-inclusive people loving and serving others in their desperation, we have become somewhat of a closed society, a secret handshake club that does our best to keep the world at bay. We have lost our concentration on the person of Jesus and have been lulled to sleep, convinced that we are still pursuing His truth.
Jesus wasn’t afraid to associate with the religious outcasts of His day. He ate in their homes (Luke 19:1-5; Luke 7:36), partied with them (Matthew 9:9-10), and defended them against the religious leaders who persecuted them (John 8:2-11). He touched the untouchable (Matthew 8:1-3), restoring hope to their broken lives. He gave generously of His time and resources (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 1:38) in order to serve the needs of others. Jesus welcomed all who would follow Him. In the process, He taught His followers to live as He lived, to do the things He did. Jesus did not seek to eliminate His enemies, but rather to love them, care for them, and teach them the way they should go.
This is the call of His Church. We are not to discriminate or decimate, but rather to include and love all people. We are to love regardless of social status, gender, ethnicity, behavior, or religious affiliation. To not love, regardless of the reason, is to not live like Jesus. No one is excluded from the honor of being loved by God; all are included. The modern church has drawn up dividing lines between who is acceptable and who is not. We have equated Christianity with societal norms and political beliefs to the detriment of our faith and the disgrace of God’s mercy. Jesus died so that whoever believed in Him would be saved. We have limited access to that privilege to those we deem religiously qualified.
It’s not too late to right this ship. We can plot a new course beginning today. The Church is made up of individual believers meaning this change must begin with you and me. We must put aside any sort of prejudice, be it ethnic, religious, lifestyle, or political. We must serve everyone with love and in the name of Jesus. This is how Jesus lived and it is to this same life that He calls us. We call Him “Lord”, but that’s a cheap and useless word if we do not surrender our lives to Him and live the way He commands us to live. We’ve long ago stopped concentrating on the message of Jesus and have replaced it with a false truth of our own making. Let’s return to the only Truth and concentrate on living in a way that looks like Jesus.