When I was in high school, one of my friends from youth group had a mother who was very active in AIDS ministry, because her brother had died from AIDS. One day she gave me a button that said, “Someone Jesus loves has AIDS.” I wore that button until it fell apart. Then in seminary I began designing tee shirts. One of my first ones was this:
(Design by Rev. Sarah R. Wastella)
I wore that simple white shirt until it also fell apart. Ironically, I would have so many people who would see my button or my shirt and react with anger. You could see the disgust in their face as it twisted itself like I was covered in filth. They would glare at me as if I had said or done something that was beyond offensive. They would asked where I got it, like I was carrying around a dead animal that might have a contagious virus waiting to be spread to unsuspecting victims. Occasionally someone would looked surprised and read it again, then they would say something edifying, like, “That’s great.” Or “I think so, too.” It was meant to be a thought provoking statement, not something to make people angry, upset, or offended. I truly believe those words to be God’s truth. I also believe…
Someone Jesus loves is in prison.
Someone Jesus loves is homeless.
Someone Jesus loves is a prostitute.
Someone Jesus loves is sixteen and pregnant.
Someone Jesus loves is schizophrenic.
Someone Jesus loves is Muslim.
Someone Jesus loves is abusing alcohol.
Someone Jesus loves is on death row.
Someone Jesus loves is stealing from their loved ones.
Someone Jesus loves is cutting.
Someone Jesus loves is sure that he doesn’t exist.
Someone Jesus loves is contemplating suicide.
Someone Jesus loves is getting an abortion.
No matter who we are or what we do, Jesus loves us, even if he does not always approve of our life choices. Jesus doesn’t want us to be any of those things listed above, because Jesus wants the best for us, wants us to experience new life in God’s Grace. No one can deny that all of those things are negative experiences, and not all of them mean you are a morally corrupt person. They are just statements about our willingness to cast off those who experience them. We could declare that you are a sinner if you count yourself in those numbers, but that would be an over simplification and a judgment that would not always ring true.
We, as followers of Christ, are called to love God’s people, even those who are not card-carrying Christians, perhaps even them most especially. We must also have enough perspective to realize that with just a quick change of circumstances we too could be homeless, alcoholic, etc. It’s not important you were a prostitute, but that you sought a new way of living and forgiveness for your past sins. It’s not that you are any less of a Christian if you were once in prison serving time for a crime you committed. More than likely, you have an experience that is more Pauline than I. We need to realize that Christ doesn’t look down and see a murder, a mentally ill person, a criminal… Christ sees a sinner who is offered God’s Grace, who will be welcomed home with open arms if they choose to believe. If Christ can see that, and be so quick to give God’s limitless love, then why should we be so quick to withhold ours?