So last week Pastor Steve got to introduce this series with talking about Rudolph and PETA, Santa Claus colluding with Russia, the Elves Union and Global Warming Melting the North Pole as key factors of how Christmas has been killed. Hey if you missed last week, you missed something special! Actually after that introduction He did get into a little more weightier matters like Love, Mercy and Grace. Today in this second installment in our series on How To Kill Christmas I get to cover such light topics as the Marginalizing, Dehumanizing, and the Re-Identifying of Humanity. Sounds like a lot of fun! Thank you Pastor Steve!
The reality is though, that we are living in a society today that is deeply struggling with the value of humanity. We as human belings have been marginalized, dehumanized and devalued. Our place in the world has also been reidentified. We have become helpless, hopeless and disposable. When we begin to believe ideas that say our existence is by mere chance, by mere happenstance then humanity has lost its purpose. If humanity has lost its purpose, then we have little to no value. If we have no value then humanity is disposable and worthless. If we believe that humanity is worthless, then we have hatred, jealousy, division and violence. If this is the case in our society then it should come as no surprise the things that we see happening today. It is the natural progression. It is the fruit of the philosophy. It is the killing of the spirit of Christmas.
However, if we could just belive the first four words in the Bible all of this can change. If we can just trust in the first four words of Genesis Chapter one verse one, then there is a hope, then there is an alternative point of view for the meaning of humanity.
In Genesis 1:1 we read, “In the beginning God. . .” (NLT)
In the beginning God; how does that settle with you? In the beginning God; can you dare to believe that today? In the beginning God; what is your response? If, “In the beginning God” is true then we can trust in everything else that comes after that. Everything else becomes possible; everything else becomes an alternative way of thinking and believing compared to this world’s point of view. Then we come down a verse such as Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." (NKJ) And Boom! Just like that humanity has great value and purpose here on this earth. Then each human-being, however small or weak, has something of meaning to bring to humanity - this is God's way, not the thoughts of men. Then other verses begin to shape the framework of our thoughts on humanity (and of ourselves), verses like:
Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (NLT)
Jeremiah 1:5, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world." (NLT)
Psalm 139:13, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb” (NLT).
Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (NLT)
Suddenly, a different narrative begins to take shape, a narrative of destiny and hope. A narrative that says we, as humanity are special. We, as humanity are meant for more. We are supposed to be better than this. We were designed to be more than what we have become. As we read on we begin to see that His way is toward connections and towards relationships. As we start to really get to know others, as we begin to listen to the stories of one another's life, things begin to change. There can be meaningful connections and meaningful relationships. There can be a connection between humanity and also a connection between humanity and their Creator. Just listen to the follwing verses to catch a glimpse of the purposes of God for humanity:
Genesis 2:18, “Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." (NAS) We are meant for human relationship.
Genesis 2:24, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (NAS) The primary human relationship defined.
Hebrews 10:24, “Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.” (NLT) A relationship that is mutually beneficial and pushing for good things.
Ephesians 4:2-3, “Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace.” (NLT) We can live together in peace and harmony.
Revelation 3:20, "Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.” (NLT) God desires to have this relationship with us as well.
1 John 3:1, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” (NAS) We can become the children of God.
1 John 4: 9-11, “God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” (NLT) This describes a loving relationship starting from God and moving out to all of humanity.
John 15:5, "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (NLT) A relationship with our connection with God as the source of all things that is good in our lives.
John 15:12-17, "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. "These things I command you, that you love one another.” (NLT) These relationships can be defined by love and sacrifice for each other’s benefit.
Matthew 10:39, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for me, you will find it.” (NLT) Our purpose comes in losing ourselves in God’s plan for us.
Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.” (NLT) God has the power to make sure that what we have begun to do for Him it will be brought to pass when we keep pushing on.
These verses reveal what is God’s plans for our realtionship with Him and our realtionships with each other. Relationships that are about love and sacrifice. Plans that describe friendship, fellowhip and desiring good for each other. Relationships that are fruitful, purposeful and full of meaning. Without these connections and these relationships we as human beings feel marginalized, dehumanized, and we suffer a loss of identity. In that condition there is no real life - we kill it, but God's way brings life and purpose. In the verses that we have just read we can see what that life can look like. A life of friendship, fellowship and peace.
There are four arenas of life that God is calling us to move from and then towards in order that we can build the kinds of relationships that He has for us, and it will be in these relationships that we can create a valued humanity, the kind of humanity were we designed to be.
1. God calls us to begin a movement towards a valued humanity by moving from exclusion to inclusion.
The Parable of the Banquet - Luke 14: 15-23.
Luke 14:15-23, “Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, "Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!" Then He said to him, "A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, "and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, 'Come, for all things are now ready.' "But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.' "And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.' "Still another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.' "So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.' "And the servant said, 'Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.' "Then the master said to the servant, 'Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” (NKJ)
This is building a relationship with and valuing the marginlized, the dehumanized and those who are outcasts and lost.
2. God calls us to begin a movement towards a valued humanity by moving from fear to trust.
Galatians 6:2, “Share each other's troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” (NLT)
Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (NKJ)
We are to trust in one another, in this we can allow others to care for us.
3. God calls us to begin a movement towards a valued humanity by moving from being closed off to being opened up.
James 5:14-16, “Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. And their prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well. And anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” (NLT)
In our openess with others we can build relationships where God can heal and help us to grow.
4. God calls us to begin a movement towards a valued humanity from judgment and prejudice to forgiveness and understanding.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan - Luke 10:30-36
Luke 10:30-36, “Jesus replied with an illustration: "A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes and money, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. "By chance a Jewish priest came along; but when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. "Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt deep pity. Kneeling beside him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two pieces of silver and told him to take care of the man. 'If his bill runs higher than that,' he said, 'I'll pay the difference the next time I am here.' "Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?" Jesus asked.” (NLT)
Also in Ephesians 4:31-32 we have, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (NLT)
Romans 15:5-7, “May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other -- each with the attitude of Christ Jesus toward the other. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.” (NLT)
It is a movement of the heart, and it welcomes, warms and secures human life and preserves dignity.
It is important to know and acknowledge this biblical truth – this was defined by the example of Jesus that; Each person is sacred to God, no matter what his or her culture, economy, religion, handicap, or fragility. Each person is created in God’s image; each one has a heart, a capacity to love and to be loved. Yes, it is also entirely true that - Jesus loves everyone, but He does not always agree with everybody. However, this does not mean that we get to pick and prefer who we want to show the love of God to.
Matthew 9:10-13, “That night Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to be his dinner guests, along with his fellow tax collectors and many other notorious sinners. The Pharisees were indignant. "Why does your teacher eat with such scum ?" they asked his disciples. When he heard this, Jesus replied, "Healthy people don't need a doctor -- sick people do." Then he added, "Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: 'I want you to be merciful; I don't want your sacrifices.' For I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough." (NLT)
Luke 15:1-10, “Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such despicable people -- even eating with them! So Jesus used this illustration: "If you had one hundred sheep, and one of them strayed away and was lost in the wilderness, wouldn't you leave the ninety-nine others to go and search for the lost one until you found it? And then you would joyfully carry it home on your shoulders. When you arrived, you would call together your friends and neighbors to rejoice with you because your lost sheep was found. In the same way, heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven't strayed away! "Or suppose a woman has ten valuable silver coins and loses one. Won't she light a lamp and look in every corner of the house and sweep every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors to rejoice with her because she has found her lost coin. In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God's angels when even one sinner repents." (NLT)
Apparently, it is God’s desire that we seek out the lost, lonely and rejected to be sure that they get a chance to experience His love and purpose.
Yes, I know, I just shared with you a ton of verses of Scripture, (I believe it was 65 to be exact) but I really wanted us to get a feel for what God’s plans are for relationship and community; to get a sense of His purposes and desire for humanity. I believe that not only is it a much better plan, and a better view of humanity but more importantly I believe that it is truth. So this Christmas our challenge is to reach out with faith in God and dare to experience His plan for Humanity. Dare to reach out to a lost and hurting humanity with this message of hope, purpose, value and peace. All of His human creation has a place; everyone deserves to know their value and His desires for their lives. As we begin to build and live in community with each other then Christmas can begin to come back to life.