I want to love more like Jesus.
How many times have you said that to yourself? How many times have you prayed to live more like Jesus, to have a heart like Jesus, and to treat others like Jesus did. Have you asked God to give you a heart that fights against injustice and a passion for change?
I fall short of that all the time and I am beginning to realize that while they are nice sentiments, I don’t know the first thing about changing in a way that is meaningful to others. I want to be that person that walks across the street to help the one others ignore rather than to cross the street to avoid people I have been trained to fear. I want to sit among the “sinners” and hear their stories and stand with the brokenhearted, the marginalized, and the mistreated.
I want to love like Jesus.
His love was radical. He loved all the unlovable with sincerity as he put them on a level plane with others. However, I don’t know how to step into worlds that aren’t predominately where straight white English-speaking people live. That’s what is different about what Jesus did – he didn’t wait for them to come to him; he went to them and showed others they should do the same.
I don’t know how to be an ally without possibly offending someone. I don’t know how to ask a question without invoking anger. I don’t know how I need to change what I do in a meaningful and helpful way without understanding more. I’m listening. I’m listening with a heart of Jesus to stories so that I can better see the pain and better understand the need to love others like Jesus.
I have heard some of the stories of injustice and privilege told by friends and family. It took me a while to understand that I have the privilege of not facing what they do every single day of their lives. I have the privilege to walk away if I choose; however, they do not. I can leave the fight while they must live the fight, and try not to get hurt emotionally or physically in the process.
One person of color told me her story. She was raised in a predominately white liberal middle-class neighborhood near me. Even though she should feel safe in her own neighborhood, she does not. She is watched and followed when she enters the store. She is careful when driving through the town speed traps to avoid being pulled over. She has been denied opportunities because she is a black woman in this white town. This is her every day life in an affluent suburb. How can this be? This is my home and I didn’t see it until she opened my eyes.
I have watched friends hide that their sons, daughters, or grandchildren are part of the LGBTQ community for fear they will be ostracized from their faith community. I have heard the nasty comments made to them when they stand in excitement for their weddings and births of children. I have witness the subtle discrimination against my daughter’s fiance in the work place and when we are out together. “Is it a she or he?” As if he were less than human because of his transition. I see people laugh at gays just walking down the street and heard the names hurled at them by people who would claim to be followers of Christ. Is this the love Jesus told us to have for our fellow citizens?
Almost anyone can tell you a story about the abuse directed at someone from another country – just watch the person working the cash register long enough and someone will certainly scream at them to “learn English or go home.” If we are honest with ourselves we may have even thought something like that too. I have met doctors, lawyers, and teachers from other countries who are working in construction or other labor jobs because it was more important to give up those careers just to live. Yet they are held back because few will take the time to ask them about their background. Few are willing to hear the horrors of life in a country where drug lords rule or violence against women is part of the culture. How can we disregard their worth because they speak with an accent or live out a culture different than our own?
Love like Jesus.
That’s all I know. Its my starting place. I begin with prayer. I pray for wisdom and a changed heart. I pray for those I know who are discriminated against and punished just for being who they are. I pray God’s peace and protection over their lives. I ask God to use me however that will look. I encourage others, especially our churches, to be more open to people who are not like us. To take the Christ’s love to them not just wait for them to arrive in our white sanctuaries. Walk out the door and into the streets. Yes, change within. Change the look of your staff and your key volunteers. Ask them what to do. Ask them to take the lead and walk with them.
Love like Jesus.
Read more about my journey through social injustice Imparity Lament- We Can Do Better.