In recent research by the Barna Group, substantial majorities of Millennials who don’t go to church say they see Christians as judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%) and insensitive to others (70%).
One of the hardest verses in the Bible
for me to read is in John 13:35
(VOICE) when Jesus says, “Everyone will know you as my followers if you demonstrate your love to others.” I know from reading the gospels that for Jesus love isn’t pretty words, love is action. I think Jesus would be crushed that his followers are known for being judgmental, hypocritical, and insensitive rather than by their love.
One of the most remarkable characteristics of Jesus is that he did not mix only with the priests and the well-to-do business people of the day. Instead, Jesus ate dinner in the homes of thieves (more politely called tax collectors in the Bible), he let prostitutes wash his feet with their hair, and he offered hope to those caught in adultery. He invited the poor to follow him and broke bread with betrayers.
Jesus didn’t see himself as a better person than those he met. He saw everyone as a person who needed to be loved. Rev. Charles Bayard Miliken (Methodist Episcopal
, Chicago) reminds us,
“It is the way one treats his inferiors more than the way he treats his equals which reveals one’s real character.”
Here are four actions you can take today that will help you learn to treat everyone as equals:
1. Pray for God to open your eyes
Each day ask God to open your eyes to those who need to be loved. No matter where you live there are people who cross your path each day that are easy to overlook. If you’re anything like me, once you pray this you will be amazed how many people you already see on a daily basis that you haven’t been treating as an equal.
2. Do what God says even if it sounds crazy
I once felt I needed to buy baby diapers and formula for an old man in a supermarket. He didn’t have a child with him. However, it turned out his only child had recently passed away, leaving him and his elderly wife to look after a 1 year old grandchild, and they didn’t know how they’d afford it or where to start.
Often what a person needs the most won’t make sense to us at the time. I have learnt that God can be trusted to let us know what a person needs most. So if you suddenly think, ‘I should buy a ton of and take it to a homeless shelter,’ do it!
3. Remember to be kind
A few years ago, I read Under the Overpass by author, Mike Yankowski who spent a summer living as a homeless people while in college and wrote a book about his experiences. “Sometimes it's easy to walk by because we know we can't change someone's whole life in a single afternoon,” writes Yankowski. “But what we fail to realize it that simple kindness can go a long way toward encouraging someone who is stuck in a desolate place.”
The thing that has always stood out for me about his time on the streets is that he said sometimes a kind word, and being treated like a human, meant more to him then some spare change. Since then, even when I don’t want to give money, I try to at least offer a person dignity with my words.
I’ve also tried to extend this practice to people I often overlook like cleaning staff, cashiers and waitresses.
Bryant Meyers, author of Walking with the Poor writes, “Remember that the poor are people with names. [They are] people with whom and among whom God has been working before we even knew they were there.”
4. See Jesus in his “distressing disguise”
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Remembering these verses definitely helps me not to see the least of these as less than me. Arloa Sutter, founder of Breakthrough Ministries, a non-profit that helps to shelter and empower the homeless, says, “Working with the poor is ‘loving Jesus.’” What a powerful reminder that as Mother Teresa once said the presence of Jesus can often be found in the distressing disguise of the poor.
As I look around at the Christians I know and love, and the Churches in my community, there is a lot we are getting right. There are many non-profits and outreaches to the poor, the homeless and the broken that have grown out of the love of a few.
However, there is also much room for growth if a follow up study by the Barna Group in a few years is going to show that substantial majorities of Millennials who don’t go to church say they see Christians as housing the poor, feeding the hungry, loving the unlovable.
Wendy van Eyck is married to Xylon, who talks non-stop about cycling, and makes her laugh. She writes for anyone who has ever held a loved one’s hand through illness, ever believed in God despite hard circumstances or ever left on a spontaneous 2-week holiday through a foreign land with just a backpack. You can follow Wendy’s story and subscribe to receive her free ebook, “Life, life and more life” at ilovedevotionals.com. She would also love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter.
Publication date: June 23, 2015