Many of us in the Christian faith today talk a lot about accepting people just as they are and welcoming all kinds of people into our ranks. We make it clear that we are all sinners and that relationships come before religion. We teach that the ten commandments can be boiled down into loving God and loving people. And not just the people who are good, moral Christians. We should love all people. We profess to be open to people of all walks of life, wherever they are in life. Not only that, but we profess to put them above ourselves. Yep, we Christians say that we put prostitutes, drug addicts, child molesters, porn addicts, and the other "dregs" of society above ourselves, just as Jesus did.
But how often do we really do it?
My kids have both recently shown how they emulate what I preach and not what I do (good for them) and showed me how big a hypocrite I really am.
My daughter, Lauren, just had her 7th birthday last month. We asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday and she enthusiastically replied "Chuck E. Cheese!" Of course, my husband and I were less than thrilled since we suspect the seventh layer of hell is Chuck E. Cheese with all the ticket counters broke and no adult supervision. We still agreed to do it and told her she could invite ten kids from her class (hoping only three or four would actually come).
When she sat down to do the invitations, Lauren named off all her friends she wanted to invite and then got to the last two invitations and said, "I want to invite XXXXXXX and XXXXXXX, because they are the worst kids in the class and they never get birthday invitations from anyone." I wish I could say my heart filled with joy because my daughter made such a Christ-like decision. Instead, I groaned inside. Not only is Chuck E. Cheese the special kind of hell they reserve for televangelists on the take and those who beat each other to death with scripture, but now there was a chance that the two worst kids in my daughters class would be there. To say I was filled with dread would be putting it mildly.
Long story short, the only person to come to her birthday party was one of these "worst kids in her class". His aunt and uncle brought him because mom was mysteriously missing. They were poor. And the boy was shy. But one on one, he and my daughter had a great time. I hit it off with his aunt and had a great conversation about God and church right there in Chuck E. Cheese. And now this little boy who had no friends has my daughter as a friend, so much so that just yesterday he gave her a Christmas present, which looks to be one of his own toys he wrapped up and gave her. And I feel like a huge hypocrite for not being nearly as Christ-like as my seven year old daughter is.
Then, to add insult to injury....
My five year old, Michael, started Kindergarten this year. Michael has a speech impediment and is one of those kids that is super, super smart, but is oblivious in social situations. So my biggest fear with sending him to school was whether or not the kids would accept him and if he would make any friends.
Starting the very first week of school, when I would ask Michael if he had any friends at school, he said he did and would rattle off a few names if he could remember them, but then he always talked about "that guy that hates me". Every day, Michael would tell me what he and his friends played on recess and then he would talk about how mean "that guy that hates me" was. Fearing for my son's fragile self-esteem, I prayed that "that guy that hates me" would stay far away from Michael. It didn't help when I went to the parent teacher conference and when I asked Michael's teacher who this kid was, she pointed at a desk in the corner and said "See that desk. That's XXXXXX's desk. He sits there because he hates everyone." I even found this kid's Veteran's day picture hanging in the hallway, and it was scribbled black all over and torn in half. After that, I started praying that this kid would just disappear, move or get changed to another class or whatever, just so my son wouldn't have to be around him.
One day, Michael came home really upset about "that guy that hate's me". Michael said, "You know that guy that hates me, well, he hates me, he hates school, he hates Mrs. Lisi and he even hates Jesus!" I asked Michael how he was going to react to that, hoping he would say to stay away from him or ignore him. Instead he said, "I'm going to show him how much I love him because he doesn't know that I love him because he doesn't know Jesus."
Again, I wish my heart would have filled with joy at my son's Christ-like answer. Instead, I groaned in fear that my son was becoming one of "those kids", the ones who were the obnoxious Christians who pushed Jesus on everyone. If that wasn't enough, then there was the fear that Michael would start preaching at this kid, with his lack of social graces, and end up getting punched in the nose!
I sent Michael off to school the next morning, worried that I'd be getting a call from school that my son had gotten beat up by "that guy that hates me" and I'd have go pick him up because he had a busted nose. Instead, Michael got off the bus all excited. After he calmed down enough for me to understand him, he told me, "Mommy, mommy, you know that guy that hates me? Well, I told him all about Jesus and I told him how much I love him and how much Jesus loves him and now he knows that I love him and he's my friend. We played Star Wars together on recess."
And again, I feel like a huge hypocrite because I'm not nearly as Christ-like as my five year old son!
So...here is what I learned from these stories (besides the fact my kids are freakin' awesome), when Jesus says we must approach Him like little children, it isn't just talking about our faith in Him. It's also referring to our faith in each other.
It's always amazed me how few social boundaries there are between kids under 8-10 years old. They are so pure. While it may mortify me when my daughter comes up to me and says loudly, "Mommy, see that girl over there with the brown skin and the frizzy hair? She's my new friend", the fact that she sees nothing wrong with pointing out her brown skin shows she has no precepts about what brown skin or white skin or nice clothes or tattered clothes may mean. She has the childlike faith that Jesus really is big enough to work through us to reach those far from Him. My son has the childlike faith that Jesus is revolutionary enough to truly change hearts by simply being introduced to them. Kids don't have the jadedness that adults do. They also don't have the fear that adults do.
I pray that God gives me the childlike faith that seems to come so easily to my children. I pray that He lets me trust in His power to transform the world. And I pray that I may love as purely as a child does, that my precepts and jadedness are stripped away, and all that is left is a Holy Confidence in the one who can redeem everyone, even the worst kids in the class and the people who hate us.