I was once helping at an inner city ministry that served lunches to the homeless and hungry in our town.
Once a week, a Bible study group from the church connected with the ministry would host the lunch and be in charge of the meal and service. Before we opened the doors one day, I sat down with some of the older men who were hosting that week. As we began to notice people congregating outside of the door the men started to make comments on some of the clientele. “What is the deal with that guy, he is wearing a leather jacket and has a cell phone?” “I have seen that family before, they never miss a meal. They don’t look like they are going hungry.”
Mired in their judgmentalism, these men had just a narrow view of the people they were about to serve. They made assumptions and took liberties to dismiss people based on the most superficial of reasons.
But, just 10 minutes later, everything changed. These men started to serve the people coming in and started to sit down with them and talk with them. They started to interact with them in a way that broke the barrier of dismissiveness and elitism and just allowed everyone to see each other on a more human level. Serving and sharing a meal with people outside of these men’s societal group gave them permission to love and opened up an entire world of understanding, tolerance, and generosity. Judgmentalism was quickly replaced by graciousness and care.
Jesus knew what he was doing when he knelt in front of his followers and washed their feet in the most servant of roles. Then he told them to go and do likewise. Jesus wasn’t dictating a task for a task sake but was broadening the horizons of his followers. Jesus knew that if he could get his disciples to serve sacrificially that the common barriers of race, gender, economic status, and family origin would easily dissipate. He was giving them permission to love.
We humans are not prone to love. We want what we want and usually walk over people that get in our way or at least send a scathing social media diatribe against them. To love others means that I might not get what I want, someone else might gain and I lose in a situation. But just as these older church men found out, serving and hospitality are some of the quickest ways to move from being threatened by others to loving them and accepting them for who they are and finding common ground under Christ.
Jesus said that the world will know who his followers are by their love. And Jesus, in his sacrifice and service to us, even to his death, has given us permission and the means to love.
Choose today the Christ path of love. All other ways are dead ends.