Coffee shops are among my most happiest places. I prefer the mom-and-pop variety, but even the heavy hitters provide a haven.
And, if you sit long enough, you can see one of just about everybody. You know, the buttoned-up with soy milk next to the frenzied double-espresso next to the dreadlocked chai tea with organic honey (honestly, I don’t even know what chai tea is… or is it just chai?).
And there’s always several of the I just don’t get that‘s.
Like a weird, kinda spikey haircut you know has to take some serious maintenance, precise color-layering and do you brush it out when you go to bed, or just hope for the best?
Some things make no sense to me…
- Maybe 42 tattoos up and down arms or legs, void of rhyme or reason, theme, placement, direction, storytelling – nothing. Just a bunch of pictures – perhaps quite beautiful on their own – that turn into a multi-colored blur as they waltz by. (Don’t get me wrong, I like tattoos. But for Tim it’s a hard “No,” so I defer.)
- Music so loud you can’t hear it. Lyrics are indistinguishable. Speakers rattle and buzz. Just why?
- Bikinis – and not because I’d never wear one. But I mean, how can that be anywhere close to comfortable? on a sandy beach? when you’re sweaty (unless of course you’re one of those beauties who don’t sweat, which, in that case, you look great!)?
- And, on that note, food that makes you sweat while you eat. Can you even taste that?
- Solo rock climbing and cave exploration
Thankfully, with age has come natural layers of mellow. Thankfully, I no longer consider myself the judge of these oddities and fascinations – just an observer.
But, of course, I can’t leave this list to the benign and quirky. I continue to dig and find other why’s? Actions and words for which I am less the detached observer and more of a critic…
- Demanding respect, tolerance, and understanding when there is no intent to respect, tolerate, or understand in return.
- The unquenchable thirst for political, financial, even cultural power.
- Man’s inhumanity to man.
- Having the audacity to assume the position of Heaven’s Gatekeeper.
Yes. The world is sort of a mess. In many ways, different ways, it always has been – and many of our choices make it worse. In big ways. Altruism is struggling to keep one nostril above the ocean of despair and it’s every person for him/herself.
Okay. So there may be explanations for going off the deep end. Regarding numbers 1-4, that is.
It’s that last one. Number 5. Heaven’s Gatekeepers. Yowzers.
I know scripture verses that seem to describe what a follower of Jesus should do and be. There are verses about “unless you do/are…” you either will or won’t spend forever with Him. There are letters to the churches, Old Testament prophecies, that outlandish book of Revelations.
And through the years, we have created mantras, slogans, and little momentos of our salvation. Remember the Four Spiritual Laws and that 5-colored wordless book – black, red, white, gold, green? We have drawn lines in the sand with prescribed prayers and short lists of do’s and don’t’s. Growing up, our family list was pretty simple:
- Go to movies
Easy-peasy – unless you’re a freshman in high school, when things get a little dicey and you see your fellow Believers slip and slide here and there. Sooooo, are they like me – or not so much?
And we start asking the question of doom:
Where will I spend eternity?
Where will they spend eternity?
Easy answers, my friends, easy answers.
You’ll have to ask him/her/them.
Now, of course. Yes. We are to spread the Good News. Jesus’s own words were to go into the world. He had no patience for people who were selfish with God’s gift. Of course, we are commissioned to tell everybody we know that God loves them. Of course.
But we are not gatekeepers.
We have neither the authority nor the wisdom to separate the wheat from the chaff or the sheep from the goats.
We have marching orders, we are Jesus with skin on, we are His hands and feet – there are many ways to say it. The life-time job of anyone who is devoted to Jesus and the Kingdom of God is not in question.
But good golly, Miss Molly, that job is not to stand at the door of Heaven with a clipboard and checklist. And, even if we thought we had the definitive, inside scoop about the profile of a true Christian, so would everyone else, and accounts of the resulting fist fights and name-calling between and among denominations and Bible study groups would overwhelm church libraries and publications.
No, my lovelies, it’s not up to us. It is way above our pay grade to presume we have all the answers. And I can only imagine that the God of the universe who loves us without measure is looking at us with a broken heart, wondering where our sense of wonder went.
We are not the gatekeepers.
We do not – WE. DO. NOT. – have all the answers. And we don’t need them.
Wanna know why?
It’s simple. We are called to love. Our truest mission is to love absolutely everyone.
Agree with them?
Not if we don’t.
Give them a pass when hard topics come up? like about Jesus and Heaven and life and love?
Nope, we speak the truth. Yes, in love.
But tell them they are going to H-E-double-hockey-sticks when they love the wrong person or have a different understanding of life?
Nope. Not my job, mahn…
Argue without listening?
Draw lines in the sand that so quickly turn into chasms over which building a bridge is nearly impossible?
Write them off and move onto the next victim?
How dare we assume the chair of the judge and take up the sword of the executioner.
We are not the gatekeepers.
I don’t get it. I don’t understand how so many (not all) people who claim to love Jesus don’t long to be more like him. I am bereft when I see and hear about the church-goin’ crowd (some, not all) carrying their 2nd Amendment placards. I will never understand their utter distain for the LGBTQ+ community and their unveiled hatred of the “other” party. Their Let’s Go Brandon t-shirts and signs.
Author Stephen Mattson said it this way:
I pray that my Christianity will never prevent me from being Christlike.On Love and Mercy, A Social Justice Devotional
Yes, I am puzzled by the weird, the chaotic tattoos, the deafening music, teeny-weeny bikinis, scalding food, and spelunking. But I am broken when I see Jesus represented by the mean-spirited, the proud, the haughty.
Jesus didn’t say, “Go, shout down anyone who dares disagree, beat them silly, and drag them kicking and screaming into Heaven.”
He went for something so much more outrageous.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:John 13:34-35 (ESV)
just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Like the campfire song says: They will know we are Christians by our love.
And, as always, until next time, I pray for you…