We recently had some friends come to our youth group and share an incredible story they’ve been telling. A few years ago they started an organization called Povertees. They make cool t-shirts with pockets they sew on them–then they use the funds from the shirts to help and assist people living on the streets of downtown LA. They’ve been at it a few years now, and they are still making shirts, but there is more going on than just sewing pockets. As their story shares, they believe in ‘life sewn together.’ It wasn’t just about making a shirt or even helping people; instead, it became about hanging out with their friends in LA. They made shirts so their friends could eat; they raised money so opportunities could be created for their friends. This group became about loving people not because they were a project or even because Jesus would love them. Rather, they made trips to LA and created t-shirts because they began living life together. And that is beautiful.
People have worth and value because they are human. God’s image is in them. We call out this beauty when we love people not out of Christian service or ministry, but because we are people. Similarly, we are nice to people not because being nice is what a Christian does, but because being nice is the human thing to do. That’s what my friends at Povertees understand. There is a fire raging in their bellies to love and serve, founded in our shared humanity. They’ve discovered the indispensable truth that we have brothers and sisters everywhere.
It’s always struck me as kind of odd that the church makes a huge push towards benevolence in terms of giving but not in terms of receiving. We are fine with giving money and time to serve those in need, but how often do we receive these same people into our midst? Our churches relegate money towards charitable organizations and hold giant serve days, but do our churches actually include the same people we so valiantly serve? If our hands are open to give and love, are they also open to hold and welcome that same person in our live? Do we see unsurpassable worth in every human being on this planet? Do we even see unsurrpassable worth in people we don’t like or respect? (Slight caveat: Especially in light of election season, do we see God’s image in Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? In Republicans and Democrats?)
In the books of the Prophets we get a glimpse of a coming time when things will be different. We are told nations won’t rise against nations. People will pound their swords into plowshares (Joel 3) and the lion will lie down with the lamb (Isaiah 11). It’s an interesting description of the Messianic Age. People will no longer make war. Incongruous people groups will unite together, just like a lion and lamb being together. Ever notice how some people in this world are like lions, and others like lambs? There is coming a day when we will abolish the superficial societal boundaries we’ve constructed. No longer will your income or talents define your worth. Together, as one family, we will be one.
The hints of this new age are spoken of throughout the Old Testament into the New. A time of renewal is coming. The Messiah ushers in this new age of fellowship and solidarity. There is a compelling story in Luke 19 about a little man named Zaccheus. He is sort of an eccentric fellow, climbing a tree, trying to see Jesus. His life has been a tad bit unethical–stealing money from people and all. But in meeting Jesus he is transformed. His heart is changed and he begins to give back the money he took from others. All the people that Zaccheus overlooked in his lifetime begin to meet a new person, changed, and never going back to the way he was. It’s one of many transformative stories where people on the outside are welcomed into the Kingdom Family.
Jesus began a revolution—ushering in this messianic age. He created a new norm for the church. We are in this life together because even though we come from different backgrounds, have different struggles, and look different, we have much in common. We share in our humanity. This new humanity is the realization that God dwells among us and in us. Not just us, but all of us. We make friends on the basis of our unity, not diversity, because in God’s eyes there is no difference.
God sees unsurpassable worth in every human being. The more we get out of our own self-centered worlds we begin to realize this. We start to see ourselves in others. And we realize we have friends everywhere. Beauty surrounds us no matter where we live. I remember a quote I heard once by Albert Einstein where he said we have two ways we can live—like nothing is a miracle, or like everything is a miracle. I’m beginning to see everything is a miracle. People teach me about the miraculous. They embody grace and forgiveness, and remind me that we share similar struggles in our lives.
The more years you add up in your life, you begin to develop a certain perspective about this precious gift of being alive. I spend quite a bit of time with elderly folk. Every moment I spend with them is really a lesson in perspective and priorities. How much life we have is determined not by the quantity of our years, but by the quality of them. Do we live full of grace and beauty? Do we see worth in every person and call it out for what it is? When someone calls out the worth in your life it changes you. When someone takes the time to get to know you, touch you, and hold you, it changes you.
I’ve always been fascinated by the amount of interactions in the Gospels where Jesus touches people. Jesus touches everyone. He holds little children, he embraces the sick and diseased, he places his hands on women (a cultural no-no). Numerous conversations are preceded by touching people. Often times we gloss over those kinds of nuances in the Scriptures. We disregard their value. However, when we begin to actually pay attention to what Jesus does, we see he was intentional. Part of valuing people meant touching them. It meant showing them they mattered greatly to God. People are worthy of love, respect, and human touch. The more we lovingly hold one another, the more apparent it becomes that skin feels the same regardless of whose it is. Yet again, we are reminded of our shared humanity.
The Messianic age is upon us. Jesus ushered in the beginning of a renewal. We actively seek to break down what separates us from one another whether it is class, education, race, or certain kinds of sin. It’s time we begin to call out worth in one another. It’s time we stop simply making friends and begin living with family. Let us allow others to call out worth in our lives and in turn and do the same.
One day we will stand in His presence united. Heaven will be full of family—brothers and sisters who look different than us, but share the beauty of our humanity. Everyday in this life, we have an opportunity to know and be known. Family is everywhere. Unsurpassable worth exists on every corner of the planet. How are we going to share in our common humanity with others? Because the time has come when lions lie down with lambs. A new age has dawned where the church has become the norm for society. It’s time to throw open her doors and not only seek to give to our brothers and sisters, but be willing to welcome them into our midst. The day has come for us to live unified as family who embody our unsurpassable worth.