“All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner”

— Luke [19:70]

 

HANGING OUT WITH JESUS

I remember meeting Rudy Rasmus in a private room with a bishop of the United Methodist Church. He was a talker. He had stories that were riveting, about his past, his ministry, and the poor. He is a pastor for a Methodist church in Houston, but prior to that he had run a bordello. He would admit he was a sinner. He’d come to face Jesus and turned his life around. After passing his tests to become a pastor, he was given a church in one of the poorest sections of Houston. The church had nine members. Undaunted he moved forward with this small church. In a move of pure faith and to get more people to come his church, he started paying one dollar to anyone who would show up.

Today, the church Rudy serves is over nine thousand people strong. Thirty percent of the people were previously homeless. And it is one of the most culturally diverse churches in the country. Rudy attributes the success of the church he pastor’s, to the fact that it contains a group of people who embrace the vision of tearing down the walls of classism, racism, and sexism and building bridges to experience Christ. The church feeds the poor. Builds housing for the homeless. All through a nonprofit called the Bread of Life. The church and Rudy have changed the landscape in downtown Houston. Rudy doesn’t usually preach these days; he leaves that up to the other ministers. Instead he greets church attendees at the door and welcomes them. 

“For Jesus and Rudy, there are no class differences, race differences, or gender differences.”

In today’s verse we hear people grumbling that Jesus was going to be a house guest of a sinner. This was a frequent activity of Jesus. He dined with sinners. He stayed at their houses. He spent his time in the Judean marketplace helping all who worked there. Jesus views each person as equal. He even converted women of ill repute. Everyone was worthy of God. For Jesus and Rudy, there are no class differences, race differences, or gender differences. We are all God’s people. Jesus hung out with everyone. 

“We are all God’s people.”

When we see a poor person on the street, do we walk to the other side? Do we judge a person or try to understand their circumstance? It is hard to engage on a sincere basis when we meet someone in a situation different than our own. It is hard to not be wary or judgmental. We all wrestle with the idea of hanging out with those who come from a different social stratum. But we don’t know their journey to this point. Perhaps they were once where we are. Perhaps their circumstance arises from an abusive home situation or poor choices from the past. Perhaps they are grappling with a serious medical ailment. Perhaps they were abandoned by their families. We all have one important thing in common: We are all God’s people.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

How do we approach new people in our lives?

What judgments do we make?

Can we see God in every person?

 

 

“But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”

– Matthew [5:39]-41

 

PERSPECTIVE

How many of us have been cut off in traffic and replied in anger? Is there a person at work who is constantly irritating us? How often have we started our day and been sidetracked by someone else? These moments test our Christian beliefs. These are the moments in life when Jesus asks us to consider a different response than our natural instincts. In today’s verse Jesus says to reward our offenders. Jesus wants us to show love not hate. In these moments, Jesus wants us to elevate our Christian beliefs. He wants us to have a perspective of being positive and helping the world.

“The moments in life when Jesus asks us to consider a different response than our natural instincts.”

For every negative reaction we get, perhaps we should add a moment of grace to someone else’s life. What if we tried to go to bed every night having done more good than bad that happened to us? What if we went to bed having returned every act of kindness to us with one more to someone else? Today, Jesus is asking us to not engage with retaliation, but with the spirit of God. By doing this we stopping a cycle that can only spin downward.

When we are wronged, there might be an underlying reason that needs our compassion. Perhaps the person who cut us off is late for work or has already had a bad start to his or her day. Perhaps the person who irritates us is in need of affirmation of his or her being. We can never know the real reason for bad behavior, but if we are empathetic we can see the possibilities.

“Jesus wants us to index to the positive and remember all are made in the image of God.”

Jesus is asking us to change our perspective. Jesus wants us to index to the positive and remember all are made in the image of God. Life diverts us from this image. It causes us to move away from our intended purpose. Remembering that we are all made in the image of God changes our perspective. We assign more respect and sympathy to those who are struggling. We become helpers. As Christians, this is perhaps our hardest task. To rise above feeling victimized and slighted. To put on our suit of Christian armor in the face of anger.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

With whom do we need to be more charitable?

Do we see the image of God in people?

How do we find the good in people?