Those People

Christians are great at maintaining the status quo.

And that is not a good thing.

Perusing historical documents reveals a number of Christian leaders supporting slavery or opposing people like Martin Luther King, Jr. Because the social structure of those eras mandated one race of people was better than another.

And churches often spoke to perpetuate that structure. Or they did not speak at all.

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For the first several centuries, Christianity was an underground movement. No social standing. No political power. Moving in shadows, meeting in tombs, passing messages in code.

Then Constantine came along. Christianity became acceptable. Christianity became mainstream. Christianity began to have influence.

And too often, Christians have not done well with it.

Once given power, that power needs to be protected. To protect power, we need to protect the status quo. To protect the status quo, we need to prevent change. To prevent change, we defend ourselves, sometimes at all costs.

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Many people view the God of the Bible as two different manifestations: the Old Testament God and the New Testament God. After all, the OT is all violent and bloody and command-filled; the NT is all grace and love and mercy.

But this perspective misses so much of the grace and mercy of the Old Testament.

At FaithWorks of Abilene, we read a Psalm every day. Near the end of each semester we read Psalm 87. These words are attributed to God in verse 4: “I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me—Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush—and I will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’”

Do you know what Rahab and Babylon and Philistia and Tyre and Cush all have in common? They are NOT Israel. They are not the chosen nations of God. God chose Abraham and his descendants to be His people. All of those other nations are not descendants of Abraham.

Yet God says He will regard them as if they were born in Zion, the holy city of God.

So this violent, exclusive God of the OT is including people outside of Israel as His people? God is already fighting against the status quo of the Israelites. They were comfortable with being God’s chosen nation. (Maybe even arrogant?)

Think about how easy it is to say, “We are the chosen! We are the righteous! We are the ones who have it right!” When you say those things, it is easy to look down and cast aside anyone, or everyone, else.

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In Romans 11, Paul starts talking about this funky looking tree (I have whatever the opposite of a green thumb is, so please pardon any gardening ignorance).

The tree represents God. The branches represent His people. Many Israelites have been pruned off and Gentiles have been grafted in. This tree of God now looks quite different than anyone could have imagined.

So this merciful, loving God of the NT is cutting His people off in order to add all sorts of different people to His Kingdom? Even with that being the case, God is already fighting against the status quo of the Gentile Christians. They were comfortable with taking the place of God’s chosen nation. (Maybe even arrogant?)

Think about how easy it is to say, “You lost your chance! It’s our turn now! We are the ones who got it right!” When you say those things, it is easy to look down and cast aside anyone, or everyone, else.

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It is easy to become arrogant when the dominant narrative states your people are the chosen ones. That basically presupposes that “other people” are not chosen.

And when you are the chosen ones, you do whatever you can to maintain that seat of privilege.

But that was not the message God was delivering to the Israelite nation in the OT or the Gentile Christians in the NT:

  • From the beginning, God wanted His people to provide for the stranger and foreigner.
  • In Romans 11, to make the tree look even more wonky, Paul tells the Gentile Christians that God can graft those Israelites back in at any time because, after all, it’s His tree—He can do whatever He wants with it.

There are no “others.” There are only children of God.

As Christians, we should not be fighting to maintain the status quo.

Instead:

We should be fighting to challenge the injustice we see in the world around us.

We should be working for true unity among all nations of people.

We should be disengaging from the bickering and arguing and speaking words of peace.

We should be quick to offer grace and slow to claim persecution.

We should be using our social media platforms to show love and kindness.

We should be listening to those who are upset with us with a reflective posture, not a defensive one.

We should be looking for the underdog (in gender, race, social class) and stand with and fight for them.

We should be remembering that this is God’s tree—He gets to decide who is added.

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How do we do this?

The first step is to start seeing people as humans and not abstractions. See people as children of God not ideological fodder.

The second step is to recognize that just because “that’s the way it’s always been” is not a good excuse to continue doing something. Do not be afraid to speak up in the face of injustice.

There is nothing sacred about the status quo. There is nothing sacred about earthly power structures.

But there is something sacred about the love God has for His people.

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