Romans 15:1-2 “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.“
Far too often, we put distance between us and those who don’t ‘fit in.’
We judge, mock, make fun of, criticize, talk behind their back, shun, bully, and even abuse those who are different from us. We can pretend that this doesn’t go on in churches today, but we would be fooling ourselves.
In our youth, we are exposed to the differences in others. Whether appearance, attitude, acceptance, or aptitude, we gather to those with whom are most like us. Groups form based on likable tendencies, similar interests, activities, or social strata.
Maybe it is the food we eat, the language we use, the clothes we wear, or the activities we participate in. It may be a preference in music, political interest, or business we are great at that forms friendships.
These ‘cliques’ form naturally because human nature draws us to the familiar and acceptable. We are challenged when someone pushes back against our ‘norm.’
So then, what is “normal” for a Christian?
When we begin to see the world’s dichotomy forming in our church, we must beware.
When we someone who is weak or simple, how do we act toward them?
When they wear clothes that betray their status or poverty, how do we speak to them? Or do we walk past them to fellowship with those with whom we are most familiar?
Sydney Sheldon’s book, “In His Steps,” poses such a scenario.
The equilibrium of the church’s social operation and acceptance was challenged when a poor man confronted the church directly.
In the processing that followed, the church realized that they had strayed from biblical teachings of others’ treatment. They formulated a statement that has taken on a life of its own.
“What would Jesus do?” or WWJD is a popularized statement that is meant to center the saved child of God on our duty based on being more Christlike. We can talk all we want about how we are a church that loves the poor, the downtrodden, the homeless, the abused, and the addicted. But watch what actions are taken when God throws us a curveball.
We all have certain sins that do not shock us anymore. Lying, gossip, covetousness, petty thievery, critical speaking, and mocking others are such sins, to name a few. We turn a blind eye to those whose sins we find ‘lesser’ and actually call out those who have similar sins with which we struggle.
In today’s society, humanity is waxing worse and worse. Murder, abuse, suicide, addictions, and mental health issues are at all-time highs. But when someone different from you is thrust into your circle, what do you do? What do you say? How do you act?
Do you make fun of or criticize them to your friends (gossip)?
Do you form judgments about them based on appearance, action, or attitude?
Working with addicts for over fifteen years now, I often hear this statement:
“I just want to be normal!”
I follow that question with, “So, what does ‘normal’ look like to you?”
For each and every born-again, bible-believing child of God, normal is to be Christlike.
Romans 8:29-30 “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
As children of God, each of us has been predestined to be formed in the image of Jesus Christ. There are no exceptions, exceptional cases, or people groups exempt from this directive and work of the Holy Spirit.
We are to help one another to become what God expects of us.
Galatians 4:19 “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,”
It is the church’s work as a body to help the weaker, less comely members gain spiritual health and vibrancy.
Ephesians 4:11-16 “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
I know it is a lengthy passage, but it is most potent when you meditate on it in light of the command to ‘bear the infirmities of the weak.’
Sin manifested in the life of a soul often looks, acts, and smells repulsive. When my pride rears its ugly head and speaks lies to my heart, I must gain the proper perspective to ‘right the ship’ as it were.
We need to think of how the stench of our own sin must look, act, and smell before a holy God. When God’s love prevails in our hearts, it can rise to be compassionate, empathetic, and charitable when our first reaction is anything but.
I have adopted a statement that helps to center me when my heart strays.
“The one before me is a soul for whom Christ died. They are deserving to be set free from the sins that hold them bound just as I was.”
We are all hell-bound sinners before we come to Christ for salvation. That lost one doesn’t need us to take up the devil’s accusations and push them farther away from the truth. We need to reach out and pull them close and walk them to the foot of the cross where they can receive the help they need.
Don’t just say you are a Christian. Let’s live it! Then, we can show others what God’s ‘normal’ can be for them.