Monday, April 17, 2006

Being Different

Not too long ago, a friend of mine loaned me a book (Strength to Love) that is a compilation of Martin Luther King's sermons. King's commentaries and his breakdown of scripture give me a much better insight and connection to the scriptures than I have gotten in a long time. What I find so amazing about King's sermons is how parallel they are to current issues...particularly war and racism. He speaks truth. He speaks reality. And even though he gave these sermons some 40+ years ago, they still resonate today.

In his sermon
">A Knock at Midnight
King says,

"One of the shameful tragedies of history is that the very institution [the church] which should remove man from the midnight of racial segregation participates in creating and perpetuating the midnight."

What is any different today? Historically our churches have been segregated...and today our churches are still segregated! Granted, they may not be totally segregated. In any given church there may be one or two families that are of a different ethnic make-up than the rest, but overall, the churches segregate just like the rest of our society does. The church reflects the socioeconomic and ethnic demographics of the neighborhood where it exists. Yet, as a Christian body, we claim to be different.

I have come to the conclusion that many Christians are only different in their words and in their beliefs, not their actions. When we, as Christians, talk about being set apart from the rest of the world, are we talking about separating ourselves by our religious talk or are we talking about really acting on our beliefs? I know some people will argue and say that evangelizing is the way they act on their beliefs. But what about taking a stand for different issues? Isn't that what truly sets people apart? Evangelism is easy. It puts all of the responsibility on the person who is being evangelized. Whether or not they accept the Word is up to them. Long-term relationships are much more challenging and take much more time and effort.

Jesus was the type of "different" that I would expect of Christians. Wasn't Jesus so condemned by the Pharisees because he was hanging out and building relationships with sinners? The way I remember the scripture, it referred to him hanging out with, not evangelizing. I'm no seminarian, so I could be wrong. The Jesus I read about hung out with people, got to know people, and built relationships with people....people who were different than him.

Poor people.

Devious people.

Unethical people.

As he built relationships with people, he was then able to speak to spiritual issues...many times because they asked him his opinion. They asked questions and challenged him because he was so different from the rest.

Are we, as Christians, really that different from the rest? What issues do we stand up for? Do we notice that our churches, communities, schools, etc. are still segregated today? Do we care? What are we doing about it? Are we sitting back and waiting for people of other cultural backgrounds to flock to us? Or are we making the first, possibly uncomfortable, attempt to get involved in a church/neighborhood/community that is different than what we are used to?

What if churches and the people in them truly took a stand and fought for truth, justice, and peace? What if their actions spoke louder than their words? What would our churches and our communities look like then?
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