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Maybe it was the way she breathed through her mouth. The way her unwashed hair stuck to her neck and the colorful socks rioted over her sandals. It was her mannerisms, her bossiness, her lack of social skills, her grating and overbearing need for control. I just kind of avoided this lady, because she flat out surfaced things in me that I'd rather not face. If you're wanting to know the stellar side of me, this isn't it. In fact, it's the downright ugly side.
The petty side.
The not-so-Jesus side. (Are we about out of sides yet?)
I hated that I honestly disliked her for no valid reason. Good Christian girls just don't do that kind of thing. But if we're getting honest (can we just?), it's something we've all experienced. Maybe you've been the mean girl hating on someone, or maybe you've been the awkward, weird girl that gets the sideways glance and the thin smile, the dismissive brush off. Maybe it's both?
I've felt both sides of that sharp edged coin, sliced to the quick with feeling not enough to be included. And I've been the one wielding the razor blade and gutting out the worth of another precious child of God.
It's wounding, this way we measure each other and form cliques and groups and exclude. It's junior high all over again, but it seriously. Never. Ends. And it shouldn't show up in church, but it does. Apparently, when you gather a broken group of people together, our sharp edges and close proximity are bound to draw blood. The early church had the same problem - and God had something to say to them. To us. Romans 14 and Ephesians 2 are written to a group of believers who were wildly different from each other and feeling the pain of differences that divide. Sometimes, it's even the little petty things that distract us from the giant truth that Christ can unify any bunch of people - even the ones in the foyer of your church - into one body. No, we don't need to be best friends with 792 women in our church, but could we just try kindness toward everyone?
Oh, we are so blind, so quick to refuse to see the Jesus in them.
Past the snobby facade and grumpiness, past the "she's so different than me," past all the boundaries we so blindly build, there is a person made by Almighty God and deeply valued by Him.
It’s so easy to focus on anything other than the blatantly obvious fact that He loves them. The sin, the stench of pain and layers of wounding that lace their soul, the little annoying habits and the great big addictions blur the image of God that is engraved over their very souls. In this place so far removed from the dusty streets of Nazareth, we tend to forget that our very Jesus had no beauty. (Isaiah 53:2) And He took on all our ugliness, our sin, our flaws when He died on the cross.
This is the sturdy beauty of Calvary - a love unafraid of dirty, needy, wounded people. Who isn't desperate for a love like that? After all, it is at their ugliest that people need loving the most, and oh, we're all a bunch of dirty, needy, wounded ones...aren't we? Strip us back to our souls, and we all have a howling void the depth of the Mariana Trench for genuine, authentic love.
And since we've already agreed to be honest, isn't this critical side most often practiced against our very selves?
The razor tongue, the critical spirit has already worked overtime castigating, reprimanding, criticizing everything about us, from the way we parent to the way we keep house to the yoga pants and ponytail reflection. Raking ourselves over the heated coals of self-hatred is not godliness. Not even close. As much as others are made in the very image of God, so are we. It is an awesome thing to be held close to the heart of the one true God.
Enough of the hating on ourselves and others, already, don't you think?
"Whatever you do," Jesus said, "to the least of these My brothers and sisters - you do it to Me." (paraphrase of Matthew 25:40) When I despise the weakness, the ugliness, the flaws and cracks in others...I am despising Jesus. And when I devalue anyone - others or myself - I am devaluing the treasure of God, the apple of His eye, and the very ones whom He gave everything to save.
The story of the Gospel is that Jesus saves us, not because we were lovable, but because we weren't. He loves us, not because we were ever perfect, but because He is. There is enough grace and truth in this God of ours to avalanche all over us, reminding us that we are free to choose.
And maybe even to look past the outward stuff and get real about the important stuff - things like belonging to Jesus matters more than anything else that's different about us. What if, instead of Junior High cliques and blind judgment, we as the church could be known for a peculiarly addicting cocktail of love, kindness, honesty, and a deep value for all life?
I'd say it's about time.
Because, honestly, all this division is starting to stink way worse than any sweaty socks. Join me?
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com/Nastia11
Saved by grace alone, Kelly Canfield is a stay at home wife, homeschooling mom, and recovering perfectionist. She is a passionate Jesus-lover, married to her best friend and hero, Joe. Together they are raising 3 lively children (ages 5, 2, and almost 1). She enjoys strong coffee, great books, and quiet time (a rare commodity.) At nap time you can find her over at www.searchingformyeden.com, where she blogs about the trials and triumphs of marriage, motherhood, and following Jesus. Her first eBook,Tired: Living Fully Engaged Through The Weary Season is coming out soon.