The Way We Treat Jesus

So when those friends of Jesus who had actually lived as friends of Jesus stood before God, they were welcomed into the Kingdom with raucous greeting. They were even taken aback a little by all the exuberance when Jesus threw his arms wide and beamed like he’d just seen his favorite uncle. “Thank you, dear friends, for feeding me and clothing me and welcoming me.”
 
Those friends, though glad to hear such effusive praise, were more than a little perplexed. “Uhh…thank you, Jesus. We always hoped we were living faithful to your Way, but..ummm…remind us again when exactly we fed you and clothed you and welcomed you?”
 
“Oh, yes,” Jesus answered, “it’s easy to not know you’re dealing with me in the world, isn’t it…since I’m always there, always present, always showing up in the middle of the life you’re already living and in the people you see every day.”
 
The friends glanced at one another, hoping someone knew what the heaven Jesus was talking about.
 
Mercifully, Jesus continued. “Well, when I was your hungry neighbor, you filled my belly. When I was shivering without a coat, you handed me a winter parka. And when I stood, trembling and lonely as an immigrant in your country, you greeted me like a friend.” {a retelling of Matthew 25}
 
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Immigration is a complicated issue. However, not as complicated as we’re making it. I can not imagine any scenario where this story goes in such a way that our country’s current practice of separating immigrant and refugee children from their mothers and fathers finds Jesus saying to us: “Thank you, friends, for how you treated me.”
 
Politicos may approach these questions with sterile calculus, but as followers of Jesus, we think and act in an entirely different way. We care for and befriend those at the margins, we come alongside the most vulnerable (children) because Jesus says in so doing, we are caring for and befriending him.

Gonna Be Okay

Trekking through the airport las week, I saw grey-headed couples walking slowly, carefully, maneuvering those treacherous moving walker ramps and navigating hordes of oncoming crowds but holding hands tight, as they’ve apparently done for many decades. I saw multiple women with swollen bellies, patting their bump as they walked and chatted, a subconscious gesture of hope and blessing. I saw a dad holding his tiny, sleeping daughter in his arms, cradling her with her head buried in his chest, her blue pacifier in place; it seemed this young daughter of his was his only care in the world. I saw a woman wearing a hijab preparing to roll a wheelchair for someone who would never, ever wear a hijab.

Best of all, on my flight, I saw a middle-aged man (of one color) stand his ground firmly, yet kindly, with an airline stewardess until the young woman (of another color) seated near him, the woman who was terrified of flying, got the window seat she needed in order to feel a little safer. Then I saw this same young woman, at each lurch or shake from turbulence, look behind her, desperate for assurance, to the man who had become her fierce guardian. And I saw him learn forward, gently pat her shoulder and say, “It’s a little rough now, but you’re gonna be okay.”

We’re struggling friends, and all that’s wrong may seem to overwhelm what’s good. But that’s not the deep story. As my new friend said: It’s a little rough now, but we’re gonna be okay.

 

Good, Good Human

Given that Christian faith rests on the fact that God thought so much of humanity that he insisted on it for himself, I cannot for the life of me understand why we Christians are often the ones most afraid of our humanity, most skittish about our bodies or our passions, quickest to think we must add some “spiritual” component to make an earth-bound good truly good. It was, after all, the Creator who introduced good to our vocabulary, and the Creator spoke this fine word not first over religious texts, theological ideals or evangelistic proclamations. Rather, God the gardener-artist took a gander at purple finches, expansive blue skies, lush honeydew and Adam and Eve’s naked bodies — and God said, Well, look what I did…Now that’s good. Good. Good. Good.

Jesus, as we know, was a Palestinian carpenter who spent his days honing his craft — the lay of the wood’s grain, how the steel blade would sing as it sliced from the proper angle, the smooth lines that told the tale of a master who knows his work. As Jesus took on his more “serious” ministry, we discover that he loved the wild air and took great joy in cooking breakfast at daybreak. Jesus always wanted friends near and entered a fury for those suffering indignity. Jesus wept when death stole a life, and Jesus cared for his mother with his own dying breath.

A beautiful novel, an exquisite meal, a night of good love, a ballgame or a movie with the kids, a traipse across the country, a day’s work at the shop or the office, the studio or the classroom – these are gloriously human acts, filled with possibility and beauty, overrun with God.

If our religion makes us less human, something’s wrong with our religion.