So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27 AMP
We are all made in the image of God, whether we choose to believe in Him or not. Recently I have been reading a book that has been challenging my thoughts about church and it's reflection of God's love for people. All the people He created, not just the ones that are inside the church. Not just the ones that are outside the church living 'respectful' lives. Not just the people who are 'similar' to us. But all people. Here is some of what this book, 'Crossing the chasm' by Kent Hodge has to say about this,
"We need a reviewed view of the church. We have had a Western view, a church in so many ways attached to Western culture and to our social traditions. We feel that if we open our doors to others too wide we will lose this. We forget that today the strongest growing Christian populations are in countries like India and China and in parts of Africa and South America. Western culture is not the equivalent of Christianity, despite the many benefits from its Christian heritage." P24
This statement can be challenging to us who have lived in a comfortable white middle class society for most of our lives. It can be challenging for our children who have listened to and seen the news and heard commentary about other religions. Yesterday, on Christmas Day, the celebration of Jesus birth, our family had an opportunity to step out of that comfort zone and mix in the caravan park with families of another faith. The mixing was initiated via a game of soccer. During the soccer game one of our children was injured. The love and care that was shown to our child helped our children to breakdown the stereo-typical image that had been built up in their minds from media reports. Kent Hodge talks about this in his book,
"As a young boy growing up in Sydney, I was bullied at school for having what people in those days derogatively referred to as a "WOG" friend (a friend from Italy). I didn't mind, because my friend's father cooked good fish and chips for us! Now, the social 'phobias' are against Middle Easterners, Muslims, sinners, or those of different classes. We really need to change, to open up and to see people as Christ sees them. Then, our churches will begin to look more like Jesus' mission: "Go out into the highways and byways and compel them ALL to come in." The separation of nations at the Tower of Babel has been overcome by Christ and Pentecost. We now live in a new world, where Christ's kingdom is breaking through in people's hearts." p 26
Due to various circumstances our 2015 Christmas Day celebrations had shifted from our normal white middle class world, and I am now so grateful that they did, because what God did in all of our hearts last night, could not have been done in any other way. He taught each of us a little more about the reason Jesus came to this earth all those years ago. He opened our hearts to see people more the way that He sees us all, with love. We could never have foreseen that blessing on our Christmas Day.
For God has consigned (penned up) all men to disobedience, only that He may have mercy on them all [alike].
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable (inscrutable, unsearchable) are His judgments (His decisions)! And how untraceable (mysterious, undiscoverable) are His ways (His ways (His methods, His paths)! Romans 11:32-33
Our challenge now is to keep growing in that understanding, looking for more ways to learn about God's love for all people, and ways to show His love to all people. To indeed grow in our understanding and ability to live out of these scriptures,
Jesus answered, The first and principal one of all commands is: Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord;
And you shall love the Lord your Godout of and with your whole heart and out of and with all your soul (yourlife) and out of and with all your mind (withyour faculty of thought and your moral understanding) and out of and with all your strength.This is the first and principal commandment.
The second is like it and is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:29-31
Let's take time today to ask God to show us what He wants us to learn about His love for everyone that He has created on this earth. And then take it one step further and demonstrate His love.
May the Lord direct your hearts into [realizing and showing] the love of God and into the steadfastness and patience of Christ and in waiting for His return. 2 Thessalonians 3:5 AMP