This morning at the men’s What-a-Study we talked about labeling.
We’ve all done it. Whether it’s a group of guys standing by their lockers and rating the girls that walk by… “I give that a 3.” “I give that an 8.” “I give that a 15.”
Or it’s labeling someone because of their nationality… “Well all Hispanics are the same.” “Well you know, he’s Scottish.” “Well Americans are all the same.”
Or we label by stereotypes… “Well all Hispanics are lazy and they’re all illegal immigrants.” “Well he’s from the Middle East so he must be plotting against the U.S. and our Western culture.” “Well they’re Asian so they must be bad drivers.”
When we label people we take away a piece of their humanity. It’s a lot easier to disregard someone if we don’t have to look them in the face or accept them as equals. It’s a lot easier to dismiss someone’s comments when we can say, “Well they’re an idiot.” “Well they’re white so we know he’s racist.” “Well they’re just an angry black man.”
Gen 1:27 says, we are made in the image of God. Everyone of us. Each person in your family and each person you can’t stand. All made in the image of God.
Someone very close to me told me yesterday that a co-worker would be going to court this week because they’re husband is an illegal immigrant. The husband faces deportation. “She is not Illegal herself. All this immigration mess takes on a different twist when you put names and faces to the immigrates.” It’s so much easier to dismiss 12-million people as criminals and yell and scream for them to go back home — until we see them face to face and realize we’re talking about individual people. Real people with real lives with real problems and real feelings. Just like us. Made in the image of God.
In ancient Egypt it was said that all the kings ruled in the image of their particular god. King Tutankhamun (King Tut) ruled in the 1300’s BC. His name literally means, “Living Image of (the god) Amun.” In Egypt, if you wanted to see what a god was like, you looked at that god’s king. I wonder if that could be said of each of us today? If you want to see what God is like, you look at God’s followers.
In Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus says if you lust after a woman, you’ve already committed adultery with her in your heart. Jesus connects our eyes and our intentions with the state of our hearts.
But then He says, if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. Or if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
Because (v 29 & 30) “It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
Wow! That’s pretty strong language. If you lust your body will be thrown into hell? It would appear that the only other option is to pluck out your eye. Good thing we don’t take that literally or as Rob Bell says, “half the population would be without an eye in a few moments.”
But according to Bell, Jewish tradition (Eric feel free to comment on this and/or clarify) has a slightly different idea of heaven and hell.
Psalms 103:19 says, “The Lord has established his throne in heaven and his kingdom rules over all.”
Heaven is the realm where all things are as God intends them to be. How many times have we said while sitting on a mountainside in quiet, or sitting by a pond or lake fishing, or enjoying a moment along with our wife or loved one, “Oh, this is heaven. This is heaven on earth.”
What if Heaven is more than just a place we hope to go to after death, what if it’s the realm where things are as God intends them to be? What if that place can be anywhere, anytime, with anybody?
Psalms 115:16 also suggests that God has given the earth to humankind to do with it as we please (for a temporary time).
So if there’s a realm where things are as God wants them to be. There must be a realm where things are not as God wants them to be.
Heaven or __(fill in the blank)__
Think about the opposite of “Heaven on earth.”
When something is a living hell or “Hell on earth” its void of love, peace, beauty, meaning. It’s absent from the will of God.
What if when Jesus says, “It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” He’s saying when you’re lusting after someone, something happens – something serious – something hellish. So you must avoid it at all costs.
What if he’s saying, “if you lesson the value of someone, you lesson your value of me?”
What if to be “anti-human” is to be “anti-God?”
Now imagine if you can… the possibility of heaven invading earth. Or the opposite… hell invading earth. Which would you prefer? Which do you think is happening when we devalue those around us with our labels, heated language, sharp tongues of anger?
When we don’t treat others as Christ would (a.k.a the Inverted lifestyle) it not only takes away a piece of their humanity – it takes away ours.
Jesus called us to something bigger. Something better. Something different. He called us to look beyond Jew and Gentle. Roman and Israelite. White and black. American and African. Rich and poor.
My mom’s kept a lot of my writings over the years. In fact she recently gave me a book she made of most of the columns I wrote at The Belton Journal and Harker Heights Evening Star. She even kept some of the writings I did back in high school that I received failing grades on. I’m pretty sure she didn’t keep all those writings because they were great works of art. I’m pretty sure she didn’t see an aspiring writer in me and think, “One day he’ll be famous and I can make money off these high school papers.”
I imagine she held on to those writings because she valued me. She valued the creator much more than the creation.
Bell writes, “How you treat the creation reflects how you feel about the Creator.”
To be a Christian is to work towards a new humanity. To work towards a place where the first thing we see isn’t race, culture or nationality, but where the first thing we see is the image of the Almighty God.
Thomas sent me a tweet this morning after the What-a-Study. “Only label God uses is ‘loved.'”
His message was in response to a Tweet I sent shortly after getting on the bus this morning. “We talked about labelling people this morn and here i am on the bus and ive already labled 4 people. Geeze!”
When Jesus says to love our neighbors, it isn’t just for our neighbor’s sake. If we don’t – something happens to us. And on the flip side, when we do – something happens to us as well.