Encounter: Overcoming Us vs. Them

At Gateway Church in Austin we began a new series called “Encounter: Learning from How Jesus Did Relationships.”  This week at the South Campus Bruce Gilson shared. Here are some of his insights:

“Jesus extends love and grace to people that are often avoided by the religious leaders.

Too often Christians become judgmental of the very same people that God loves.

Is there someone you don’t feel is worthy of sitting next to you at church?

In his ministry, Jesus launched a lethal offensive upon judgmental attitudes. He called people out on racism, sexism, and intolerance. But he saved his most pointed criticism for the religious hypocrites who denounced others as spiritually inferior. We’ve been talking about the Pharisees the last couple of weeks – these religious leaders who prided themselves in following the rules, doing sacrificial acts, and knowing more of their Bibles than anyone else. One of their worst qualities was condemnation of those who did not measure up to their exacting standards. Jesus comes along and sees right through their game.

Why is it that we humans like judging one another so much? Judgment gives us the mechanism for affirming our self worth. Regardless of my own defects, if I can find someone who is worse than me, or if I can expose the fraud of someone who pretends to be better than me, then it elevates my stature in my own mind and in the minds of others. At least I’m not as bad as that guy. And no one ever called them on it, because when it comes to denouncement, there is always plausible deniability. Look at me, I’m a liberally-minded man or woman of the world. I love God. Of course I don’t judge people. Prove it.

So Jesus tells a story in Luke 18 to prove it when he talks about a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee prays outloud and thanks God that he isn’t an evil person like the man standing next to him. Judgmental people set up a standard and then judges everyone else by that – even as they fail to notice their own imperfections. Judgmental people take on an ‘us vs. them’ mentality. (Luke 18:9-14)

No person will be excluded from God’s love by prejudice or any sort of man-made barrier.

Gateway Church is very open to people coming no matter where they are spiritually, but this doesn’t mean we have arrived or don’t have areas needing improvement.

Do we share life with people who are at a different place spiritually? Are we investing in people who make different choices or who look or believe differently than we do?

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’ – John 3:16-17

‘Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.’ – 1 Peter 4:8

When we know someone who needs faith and fail to share our own faith because we want to be politically correct, we are not giving this person an option. We are saying ‘no’ for them. Multiculturalism tell us that the most judgmental thing we can do is to share our faith or attempt to help someone spiritually. And so we see needs, and we hold back. We prejudge that they won’t be open to our help. We assume they wouldn’t be interested in Jesus.

Some of us work in offices where no one really knows how important our faith is to us. Some of us sit in offices next to people who have gone through a brutal divorce, or they are having trouble with their teenage kid and don’t know where to turn for answers. Some of us have neighbors who have gone through a miscarriage or who got laid off from their jobs. Some of us have buddies who just lost a parent. And we see the pain in their eyes. And maybe we pat them on the shoulder, maybe we mumble an “I’m sorry”, maybe we write a note, “If there is anything I can do, let me know.” But we’re silent about the one thing in our lives that we are most sure about. If we do, then we are giving in to the very same ‘us vs. them’ mentality.

We shouldn’t remain quiet when someone is in their greatest time of need.”

You can watch this message from Ted Beasley here in a couple of days and the rest of the series at http://www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

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