The way of the world is to build friendships with people who will up our careers and reputation. Scarcely will we go out of our way to befriend those who will not add anything to our image, but instead detract from it. But this is not the way of Jesus.
Jesus befriended unscrupulous characters such as Zaccheus, Mary Magdalene, Mary from whom he cast out seven demons...and he sincerely loved them. Seeking out and honoring their company with his presence rather than seeking out the company of the élite. This infuriated the élite no end, because if Jesus is who he claimed he was -the Son of God- and the great prophet they could all see he was, then the decent thing would be for him to honor the company of society's créme de la créme...
Friendship cannot exist in the midst of 'inequality.' This is why the Pharisees were scandalized by Jesus' association and bonding with society's outcasts.
So many factors create 'inequality' among us...differences in economics, academics, social status, etc., are wedges that introduce inequality between people and groups. So how do we fulfill the necessary conditions of equality for friendship to occur? By connecting at our lowest common denominator, which is our humanity, just like Jesus did. Jesus, God, met and befriended us - at our humanity.
At the level of our humanity, we are all equal and when we connect with people at the level of our humanity which we all share in common, rather than at elements which are unequally distributed among humans and nature, it becomes easy to love and befriend others like Christ loved and befriended us.
He affirmed our humanity with his friendship.
He gave us access to his privileges.
He exchanged his privilege for our disadvantage.
He clothe us with his glory.
When we connect at the level of our humanity, nothing, whether economics, academics, social, gender, etc., can stand in the way of love and friendship.
#ScandalousFriendship #JesusFriendship #ChristianFriendship #LoveLikeChrist #WhatIsLove
Prayer: Jesus, friend of sinners, help us to recognize we are the sinners whom you've befriended at great cost to your reputation. Help us, therefore, to go out and befriend other sinners like you befriended us. In your name, we pray.
Jesus' parable about the lost coin, lost sheep and 'lost son,' relate to us the joy the owner and shepherd experienced at 'finding' their lost coin and sheep.
"Amazing Grace" is one of the favorite hymns of every Christian, particularly the verse "I was once lost, but now I'm found."
So obviously, there's something joyous and beautiful about 'finding' and being 'found.'
To explain, here's an illustration: when my indoor cats sneak outside, they become disoriented and can't find their way back in - not even if they're just on the porch!
Their frequent, high-pitched meows tell me they are panicked and this in turn sets off a panic in me...Instantly, I become nervous that they might be hurt or act crazy and hurt themselves because they're disoriented. I kick into frantic, action mode to try to bring them back in and have no peace in my heart until they are safely back indoors.
It would appear they equally have no peace until they are back indoors, for as soon as they are put back into the house, they stop meowing and slink off to some favorite spot in the house.
I breathe a sigh of relief and get back to my business.
Jesus tells us that the angels in heaven rejoice over one single lost soul that is found. I get it because I get the anxiety and the distress that accompanies losing or knowing one of your loved ones is lost.
I get it because I get the sense of peace that accompanies finding and restoring the lost one home. It is this last portion that I believe Jesus wants us to get. The sense of 'coming home' that a lost one and their relatives have at the return of the lost one.
It is a sense of belonging that brings a deep peace to our being - all our fears are allayed and we know we rest in company of loved ones and that all that we hold dear are safe.
This Lenten season, I'd like to invite you to look into your life and around your world and relationships...are there ways in which you are lost or have lost others and or things? The absence of peace in those areas of our lives key us to our loss.
Having identified your area of loss, I'd like to invite you to 'listen' for the Master's voice calling you home, and walk towards that voice, not away from it.
One peculiar aspect of my displaced, disoriented cats was that they were always scared, even of me, whenever they strayed outside. For some strange reason, they could not recognize my voice to walk towards me. I would always have to pick them up in my arms and assure them it was me, by gently soothing their fur and speaking softly to them.
In the same way, humans have tended to 'run away from' our Creator, and Savior of our souls when He comes calling, to rescue us. We have no rest while we're away from Him, yet on our own, we cannot come to Him when He calls. This is why it is God's love and grace that draws us to Him and why it is important not to resist that grace, when we feel it enclosing us, but rather, surrender and let ourselves be 'found' by our Master.
And the immediate accompanied peace within the walls of your heart and existence, in areas where you once felt panic and anxiety, give you the firm and joyful assurance that you are home!
The next step of the journey is to help others find their way home!
Prayer: Lord, when we are in the panicked mode of 'lost,' please help us remember You always seek us, and help us allow ourselves be picked up, held, and led back home by You through whatever means You choose. Lord, also help us to seek those who are lost. In Jesus name, we pray.
Rev. Tega Swann is the pastor of Refreshing Springs Ministry, of the Beaver-Butler Presbytery of the PCUSA.