Monday, June 27, 2011

What have we done to "the least"? part 2

God made each of us unique.  Each unique difference gives us a glimpse of the infinitely diverse God of the Universe.  When God's people, who were meant to display His beauty to the world, decide to ignore certain people in our midst because they are different from us, we miss out on God's revelation of Himself.  Every person He places in our midst is valuable because God placed His image in each of us.   They aren't people to be changed to fit into our culture.  We shouldn't expect them to conform so that we are more comfortable.  They shouldn't be avoided because we're afraid of offending them.  We need to make an effort to acknowledge "the least" among us.  "The least" need to be noticed--not a polite, uncomfortable "hello", but a welcoming "We're so glad you're here!" 

Have you ever been "the least" in a culture?  I have.  Being a black woman, puts me among "the least" in most places in America.  I have friends that are in "the least" category in other ways.  Some are poor.  Some are disabled.  Some are single moms.  Some are from other countries.  One thing is sure.  People get really uncomfortable around "the least".  And "the least" try really hard to fit in with the majority.  They try to hide their disabilities.  They try change their appearances in order to fit "the norm" of the majority culture.  They try to disguise their poverty with nice clothes.  Poor people don't like looking poor when they're among the "non-poor".  Very few people enjoy being "the least".  So if you can't blend in, you try to find other people like you.   Birds of a feather flock together because everyone wants to feel "normal" and accepted. ( Or you try to elevate yourself--making someone else "the least".)

So how should the body of Christ respond to "the least"?   

Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians to elevate the needs and desires of others above ourselves.  

Phil 2:3-4  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 
If we take that seriously, following Jesus' pattern,we will lay aside our on preferences, desires and even our rights in order to lift others up.  In Paul's letter to the Corinthians, he tells us that God purposefully arranged the parts of His body just as he wanted them.  God brought every person to your local community.  Your church body is being designed by God.  Are you paying attention?  Are you cooperating with His work?

1 corinthians 12:22 says "...those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable..."  People who seem to have nothing of value to contribute are the most necessary for a healthy thriving community.  1 corinthians 12:23 "... and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor..."  Some among us have been treated with such disrespect and dishonor.  Some have been treated as though they are invisible.  Some have been ignored.  Some have been oppressed by the culture.  We must elevate them.  We must show them special honor. When we do this, we recognize their worth. 

Let us be people who look for opportunities to elevate "the least". 

God gave His best to "the least".  (In God's economy, we're all "the least".)

Do we give our best to "the least"?

As I consider Jesus' example, he often elevated "the least".  He gave them special privileges, respect and opportunities. He taught them by example that they were valuable in the eyes of their Maker.  Here are a few examples:   He took time to talk to women, giving them special attention and privileges.  This was a culture where women had little value, so it was pretty revolutionary.  He touched the outcasts:  prostitutes, foreigners, lepers, the blind, the cripple,the "half-breeds", tax collectors, "the crazies"--the unclean.  He took time to listen to them, to heal them, to free them from their bondage,  and ultimately gave them a face-to-face encounter with God Himself.   He lifted them out of the depths of degradation, humiliation, and dehumanization.  The God of Heaven humbled Himself to lift them up.   And so He says to us, "Go and do the same."

John 13:13-17  "You call me `Teacher' and `Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. [14] Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. [15] I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. [16] I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. [17] Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

God delights in using "the least".

1CO 1:26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. [27] But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. [28] He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, [29] so that no one may boast before him.

Are we following His example?  

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