As a bearded, green-eyed, 6’ 2” white male, it was hard to lose me in a crowd when I was doing mission work in Peru. I dare say it was apparent to everyone that I was not a local. Now we could spend a lot of time being politically correct, especially with the hotbed of controversy that currently exists around race, ethnicity, and nationality – I PROMISE I understand more than most how tall you are, what color your hair, eyes, or skin are, or even how bearded you are doesn’t necessarily make you a foreigner. You’re right. I very well could have grown up in the streets of Huanchaco, in fact, my Memaw (that’s a grandma in the South) who looks a lot like me, spent the majority of her childhood in Peru’s capital, Lima – HOWEVER, shocking as it may be, I didn’t run across anyone that remotely looked like me. This left most people with the right conclusion – I was obviously a foreigner. In fact, Mackenzie, another girl on the mission team who happens to be pretty tall too, and I posed for more than one set of pictures with complete strangers while we were out and about because we were in fact so strange ourselves (if only they really knew). I can only imagine the conversations that took place later – “You will never believe what we saw today” – as a phone is being pulled out to show the photo – “They were so TALL. And WHITE. And HAIRY.” Well maybe more true of me, but Mackenzie does have pretty long hair. What is true of me in Peru is true for me in Michigan, and Ireland, and even North Carolina (which is the state above my own that defiles their barbecue with vinegar) – as much as I try to conform to the people and surroundings, there is still a part of home that shows.
As Christians, we rightfully spend a great deal of time being inclusive. According to Paul, in one of my favorite passages, any identity we bring to the table – nationality, status, or gender – is superseded by belonging to Christ (Gal 3:28). This is consistent with the message of Jesus – “Who is my neighbor?” – anyone. Jesus drives home the point that love crosses cultures as he tells the familiar parable of “The Good Samaritan.” Make a note: this story is NOT simply called “The Good Child of God.” This is not a politically or socially correct tale. However, the moral of this tale from Jesus is not “See – Samaritans can be nice too,” but lies in the emphatic removing of the barriers of race, class, and status to place the sole importance of your identity coming from following the will of God alone – all that other crap: doesn’t matter.
This means that the lines we draw are simple. We don’t have to use family trees, tax brackets, brown bags, diets, or circumcision to prove that we are followers of Christ. Our status comes from following the example of Christ as we live out our faith. In so doing this, you are part of the promises of God, or you’re not. You’re in his will or you’re not. You’re a sheep, or you’re a goat (Matt 25:31-45). This is divisive. Some would have you believe there are many paths to salvation. No, there is only one (John 14:6). Some would have you believe that other religions worship the same God. No, they don’t (Deuteronomy 6:4). Some would have you believe that since God is love, everyone will be in His kingdom. No, see the aforementioned sheep and goats. At this point, you might be shaking your head. Is it moving left to right? Or it is moving up and down? I get it. I can feel the reflexive wince kick in from the “you do you” age we live in, but if you submit to today’s wisdom and not the teachings of Jesus, your home is here and now.
We are called to be aliens of this world which means we must, we HAVE TO! be different. When so many are clamoring that truth and identity are relative, Christians must stand-out like a 6’ 2”, greened-eyed, bearded white man in small-town Peru or more so like a 33 year-old radical priest flipping over tables in the tabernacle, and say, “This isn’t so! Children of God, don’t give up your inheritance!” We have to say IT IS NOT OKAY to sling mud or resort to physical violence just because someone has wronged you. IT IS NOT OKAY to steal from someone even if you think you are deserving of what they have. IT IS NOT OKAY to live with someone before you’re married or divorce them simply because you decided not to be with them. IT IS NOT OKAY to fail to actively teach your children the Word of God. IT IS NOT OKAY that multiple sexuality and gender fluidity are glorified and thought of as superior to God’s design. AND MOST OF ALL, IT IS NOT OKAY TO WITHHOLD THE LOVE OF CHRIST FROM ANYONE WHO STRUGGLES WITH ANY OF THESE THINGS OR MORE, NO MATTER WHAT TITLE IS PLACED UPON THEM OR THEY PLACE UPON THEMSELVES. The Good Samaritan is the The Excellent Jihadist is The Great Transexual is the The Awesome Deadbeat Dad. “That is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor 6:11)”’ This is the transition that is the definition of our hope.
The time of exclusion on this earth is temporary because our awaited time is soon coming; I don’t say this with triumph as much as I do with a sense of urgency. It is worth the persecution, the name-calling, or moments of being looked upon as a fool or insensitive in order to lead someone to the true knowledge and the fullness of knowing their identity as a stranger of this world but more importantly, a child of God. He has foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified us, not even withholding His own Son for us all. It is time to make some waves because of your faith. Maybe become the object of ridicule because you speak and act so differently. But most importantly, it is time to stand as an example of how God changes the hearts of His children in this world, and moves them into the precious citizenship of His Kingdom.