Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"How Does it Feel?"

Exodus 23.9 NIV

“Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.”

“You… know how it feels” to be one because you were one. Therefore, don’t oppress the alien or stranger. You know what it’s like to be on the outside looking in. This experience should compel you to be compassionate, inclusive, invitational, warm, and welcoming toward outsiders. Your membership in the community of faith is a gift. If you can belong, anyone can. The Church of Jesus Christ is not an exclusive club. You’re no more or less deserving than anyone else. We are ambassadors of love in Jesus’ name. Authentic concern for the welfare of everyone (in or out of the body of Christ) is a hallmark of every true believer.

One may be guilty of active or passive oppression. When we intentionally hurt another person because he’s different, that is active stranger abuse. But withholding our help in a time of need or withdrawing our acts of charity to a visitor is in our midst is just as serious. Passive oppression, even in the church, is commonplace.

Have you ever entered a social group and quickly became aware you didn’t belong. Somehow you knew. Nothing was said. In fact, it was what wasn’t said that made you feel uncomfortable, out of place, unwelcome, and strange. I’m not sure what that place was, but I know what it wasn’t... it wasn’t the Church of Jesus Christ. It may have looked like a church with posted times for Sunday services, padded pews, a weekly bulletin, and choir music. But if you were not welcome, it was not the church. Members of the true Church welcome outsiders.

At the age of 24, Bob Dylan wrote an ode to the disenfranchised. I was only 13 years old but I well remember his song. It stayed on the U.S. music charts in for nearly 3 months reaching number 2 just behind the Beatles “Help.” His indictment of those who consider themselves superior to the ‘down-and-outers’ has always rung true in my soul.

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime,didn't you?
People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall".
You thought they were all kiddin' you .
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out.
Now you don't talk so loud;
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal. 

How does it feel?
How does it feel?
To be without a home;
Like a complete unknown;
Like a rolling stone?

“You… know how it feels” to be different, don’t you? Since you do, treat outsiders like insiders, strangers like neighbors, aliens like nationals, visitors like members, lonely people like family, and complete unknowns like real friends.

“Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels
to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.”


The graphic came from an the article "Proudly exclude some people" (8/18/2007) by Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, the largest online distributor of independent music (http://sivers.org/proudly-exclude-most).

In August 1964, photographer Daniel Kramer arranged a portrait sitting with 23 year old Bob Dylan in Woodstock, New York. One of these photos is pictured above. Mr. Kramer is a also an author and film director. His photographic work has been collected and displayed in numerous museums and galleries including Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.


Anonymous said...

Since you brought it up, I have such a story. It happened in late September, 1980. I was entering my Freshman year at Santa Clara University. On my first Saturday night, I met a young gal at my first Santa Clara football game. Being from Vancouver, Washington as she was, we met up and began a friendly conversation. A few days later, she invited me to a "group."
With little understanding of what this "group" was all about, I took a chance and showed up.

The meeting began with prayer and followed with several people giving their testimonies about Jesus. When it was my turn to talk, I thought I would try to be as transparent as the others had been. My testimony that night went something like this:

"Well, I grew up Catholic, and...uh....I don't really go to church any more, but...uh....I guess I believe in God, but....uh.....I guess I'm not really sure what else I believe in."

Those words were as honest as they could be. I really was expecting something, anything at all that suggested the rest of the group could understand, identify or even empathize with my current spiritual situation. But the fact is, there was nothing. Not a peep; not a sound; not a single response. Just blank stares and looks of incredulity. "Oh my word, what did I say that was wrong?" I wondered to myself.

Anything would have been better than nothing. How about, "Thanks for coming" or "Thanks for sharing" oe even what they say in Alcoholics Anonymous: "Keep coming back."

There was none of that and I left that night with my suspicians confirmed: "Christians, they're just a bunch of hypocrites." I spent the next four years partying it up with the rest of my Budweiser friends. One thing's for sure, my Budweiser buddies accepted me exactly as I was. I didn't have to do anything to earn their love or support. And at risk of stating the obvious: I never went back to the "group" again.

Sixty three months after that night at the University of Santa Clara, I got down on my knees and accepted Jesus as my savior. But I can't help but think how my life might have changed, and especially how my college years would have been different if I had heard three simple words:

"Keep coming back."


Dave's Bible Blog said...

Wow! That was a powerful and poignant description of what it feels like to be on the outside looking in.

Can you share this with our group this coming Sunday at Word Traveler? I would certainly appreciate it.


Anonymous said...