Without Prejudice

“Jesus’ human lineage teaches us that the unconditional love of God is limitless
and without prejudice.” Tom Ricks @gtccmo

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Next week my girl will play Rahab in a Christmas musical. I’m not kidding. Gone are the years of being an angel with a sparkly halo covering her white-blonde hair. Instead, my sweetie is Rahab, the prostitute.

Do you know her story? Take a look. Besides my Rescuer, Rahab just might be my new favorite nativity character…


Her wandering mind — a pathway to her aching heart.  In the daytime while trying to do regular life. At dusk while anticipating another job. In the night when her work seemed to last forever.

Rahab. The prostitute from Jericho. God’s choice to help His people redeem what was once theirs before slavery. “That woman” with an unprotected heart was about to play the role of protector.

(Bear with me, friend. This really is an Advent post.)

Who would have imagined it?! Our counter-cultural God. He woos me out of judgements and man-made religion.

She hears a knock and welcomes two spies from Shittim, the very town where God’s people began to “whore with pagans” years and years before being enslaved in Egypt.  Yes, Moses really did write those words. The Rescue is all the more beautiful when we get honest about our messiness. How absolutely mysterious Joshua chose two men from Shittim — the memory of Israel’s physical and spiritual harlotry — to recapture their hope. Recapture their Promised Land. Recapture their hearts. Again.

Rahab. She had the perfect job for this plan to unfold.  Two men entering her home looked rather commonplace in her doorway.  But her future of redemption and purpose was anything but ordinary.

“We have heard how the Eternal held back the Red Sea,” she admits, “so you could escape from Egypt on dry land … As soon as this news reached us, our hearts melted…  The Eternal One, your God, is truly God of the heavens above and the earth below.” Joshua 2:9-11 Aching for truth Rahab was.  Fashioned for something greater than man’s empty lust, her purpose found her.  Practically stumbled upon her doorstep.

Can you see the woman captured by shame? Can you see the spies — the former slaves — captured by consequences of their ancestor’s mistakes? Can you see the Maker choosing people with heaps of baggage? Can you see Him bringing together diverse people taught to hate and mistrust one another as He writes His Rescue Story for generations to come?

And what a radical ending… The scarlet cord used to lower the spies from her window served as her protection upon their return with an army. Joshua 5 & 6 The rescue tool she provided really saved her. She married an Israeli and bore a son named Boaz… a son who would later be known for his sacrifice and deep commitment and care for an immigrant, one of society’s outcasts.

What a proud mama she must have been! The one who had been given grace saw her adult son extending grace to a foreign outcast. Without prejudice.

It doesn’t get much better than that. But actually, it does…

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. Matthew 1:1-16

Yes, next week my daughter will be Rahab in a Christmas musical. You see, generations after Rahab taught her son, Boaz, to love without prejudice, Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger. Jesus, the Immanuel, was from the line of Rahab. God With Us was from the human line of a scorned woman redeemed by grace.

The Gospel message, well, it’s different than what we’ve sometimes made church out to be. The Gospel extends beyond masks of perfection, beyond man-made communities still segregated by race and class, beyond our enslavement to what others think of us. God intentionally wove people into His ancestry whose aches led them to choices we hope our children never make.

When tempted to harshly judge others, challenges Darrin Patrick, remember that all of us violate our own convictions with embarrassing regularity. @darrinpatrick

Merry Christmas to you and yours. It feels different this year, doesn’t it? It’s almost as if you have choose to ignore or choose to engage in deep self-reflection.

Examining our own heart feels more like Good Friday and Easter rather than Advent. But the cross is here now, too. And really, it’s our only hope.

Limitless love. Without prejudice. I dare you. I dare me.

photo source

Choosing to Weep

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It’s an interesting Advent season at best, as the call for justice and equity rises above the hope of a silent night. The voices, long unknown by many, have grown loud enough to spill over into unsuspecting homes this December.

Do you hear them? Do you see them?

Weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

The beauty of city streets donned in lights and holiday bliss serves as the backdrop for masses chanting and marching and looking anything but peaceful. The scene clashes over and over. NYC window displays. A Seasons Greetings banner spread over a Ferguson street.

Silent night. Holy night. All is not calm. And all is not bright.

And maybe the chanting hasn’t reached your neighborhood, but do you see the irony that’s all of our story?! We wrap ourselves in beauty this season when God chose to wrap Himself in fallen flesh. We illuminate our homes and garages with lights as He chose to descend into darkness. We spend and buy and party away when He chose to join a mortal family with nothing.

He descended among those oppressed by Roman rule. He saw the victims and fully embraced the Rescue Plan.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. John 1:14

But there was more, so much more. Their captivity was greater and deeper than even they knew. He descended for those in spiritual oppression whose hearts were aching and longing during that forever Advent. But He descended here for the numb souls, too. He came for those who were never satisfied but didn’t know why. For those who couldn’t name their ache.

Some were captives of their own doing. Some were reaping consequences of their own sin. Some were bound by wounds inflicted from family and neighbors and the system and society at large.

He came to the mess. In fact, the mess was the reason He came. He came to the mess that couldn’t come to Him.

Maybe the chanting and the marching and ache for truth is more like the first Christmas than we’d like to think.

Israel’s call for justice. The heart’s cry to be rescued from a world we weren’t created for.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

And might we strike that balance, too? The balance between grace and truth? Truth and grace?

Weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

Do you hear the voices? Regardless of your interpretations on why there’s weeping, do see a nation suffering?

Give us the courage, Lord, to enter the uncomfortable. 

Come, oh come, Immanuel, and ransom captives… 

 

 

Photo source: Huffington Post

Ferguson | I Am the Problem

CCS handsThe heart overflows in the words a person speaks; your words reveal what’s within your heart.

The ancient physician Luke wrote those words… the doctor, the Jesus-follower, the educated disciple who walked with the One who redefined healing.

The heart overflows in the words a person speaks.  Oh, I’ve been that person, the fool, clutching after my spoken words as they dissolve into memories never forgotten. I’ve talked. I’ve asked for forgiveness. I’ve used a tone of voice.  I’ve begged for reconciliation. I’ve even dared to examine my heart to see if Luke’s claim was true. The heart overflows in the words a person speaks. Maybe you’ve been there, too.

But what about silence?  What does it reveal?

Your words reveal what’s within your heart. So then does silence reveal emptiness? Hollow spaces?  Shallow thoughts?  Denial?

I don’t think so.  Not always.

I took a break from social media in the last few weeks of summer, hoping to be as present as possible with my kids and husband.  That whirlwind called Back to School was about to blow through our family, and I needed every possible distraction gone to hold off the storm just a few more days.  I planned to join the conversation again once school started.  I planned to find my seat at the table, however undeserved.

But the last weekend of summer, a black teen was shot by a white police officer, and suddenly the world was talking about St. Louis, Missouri and our suburb called Ferguson. I had more questions than answers. So I started listening.

It’s no secret I’m passionate about racial diversity. And I’ve said this many times, but I’ll say it again: The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.  And the more I realize I don’t know, the more inclined I am to stay silent.  This doesn’t feel like the right approach, but I can’t seem to hear enough, can’t seem to listen enough to truth amidst a cacophony of reactions.  I’m actually thirsting after that which is pure and just and right, like you, and I can’t seem to satisfy the longing.  Are you still thirsty, too?

So I started conversations with individuals.  I spoke to the African American journalist working part-time in my town’s local book shop.  I listened to my black friends… of course their opinions are varied and different from each other’s.  I shared coffee with a white friend who has adopted black kids, who openly anticipates what her kids will face when she’s not holding their hands in public anymore.  I met with another white friend, a former police officer.  I spoke with friends of color — neither African American or Caucasian.

Quite a diverse bunch.

I heard about personal experiences and people they admire and situations they fear.  I heard about white privilege.  I heard about misunderstandings.  I heard about worry over what their sons could face as teens someday. I heard about the brokenness in our country’s history in ways I hadn’t before. And yes, there were present-day stories, too, testifying we have a long, long way to go.

And I am just one person.

I am a mere individual who heard all of that in the past month. The conversation, my goodness, it was roaring all over the world. It was the top headline on broadcasts and news websites.  I can’t imagine the magnitude of all the words spoken in public forums and living rooms and dorms and police stations and churches and locker rooms.  Words about race, questions about how and why history followed the path it did — I was listening, and indeed, people were talking.

And I wanted to believe the intricacies of God’s Great Story will be revealed to us all one day at the dawn of eternity.  But maybe not.

I am overwhelmed at times. I’m surprised as tears fill my eyes at the most random of moments.  And the emotions evoked — there’s frustration and deep sadness and guilt and confusion and regret and anger.

You see, there’s wounds in our nation’s story.

It’s as if the death of one young man ripped off the scars from yesteryear, revealing history’s wounds and fear and silence and ignorance.  And while the world was discovering the brokenness within my own city, I too was aching.  I ached for the hurting.  I ached for the ignorant.  I ached for my children and grandchildren because they will feel very, very small when they try to think of a solution.

I ached for my own self – for my biases, for my misperceptions, for my insecurity and pride, for my fear.

G. K. Chesterton, a prolific writer and thinker of the 20th century, read a question posed by The Times.  “What’s wrong with the world?”, asked the editor, hoping to collect wisdom from ordinary readers.  And Chesterton’s response proves that sometimes less really is more:

Dear Sir,
I am.
Yours,
G.K. Chesterton.

Imagine if we examined our hearts each morning to see if anything we’d judged the day before was raging within our own hearts.  And could you dare to go deeper?  If we didn’t find a storm, could we find quiet, dormant thoughts, hollow space void of virtues, ready to erupt at the next situation?  The pointing finger leads three other fingers pointing back at me.

When I stare at layers and layers of brokenness in the world, I see racism and stereotyping and misunderstanding, but I see a whole lot more.  I see child trafficking, and orphans, and kids who don’t have clean water to drink, and families turned against each other —  passions God has imprinted on friends’ hearts.  And I get really overwhelmed.

I often tell my children the only people they can change is themselves.  We can’t explain why everyone acts the way they do — in the lunchroom, the classroom, the playground.  But we can change ourselves.  We can surrender our own sin and choose a different path.  We can use discernment to keep our mouths shut or advocate for ourselves or ask for forgiveness or choose a different activity.  We can examine our own hearts.

And one conversation at a time, maybe we will make a difference.

I have some friends who lost their husbands to cancer when they were in the prime of raising their young families.  And one friend anticipated how she would survive the days and weeks and months after her husband’s passing.  “I’m going to get up tomorrow, and get out of bed, and put one foot in front of the other.”

The night of her husband’s funeral, that was her plan.  No dreams about the 5K they’d run for colon cancer research.  No dreams about the large groups who would hear her story.  No dreams about the poetry and art and stories her kids would create.  No dreams about how she could change her own corner of the world.

It was just “one foot in front of the other.”

And for us, yes, one conversation at a time after exploring our own hearts, maybe we’ll impact culture.

Photo by Sugarbean Photography