Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gleice

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A Saturday night service at the City of Youth. One hundred fifty or so children who call this place home fill the chapel. Throw-away kids, abandoned, exploited. They all have scars of abuse on the inside; some wear them on the outside.

Prayer time. Gleice walks forward from the back row, takes the microphone from Pastor Derli, bows her head. “God, thank you that I am perfect in Your eyes.”

Yeah. God, make her perfect in my eyes, too.
Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

That verse again.  The one that demands activity—and it is activity rooted in vision.  Not big picture vision, but just basic eyesight.  Learning how to see people.


A bit about Gleice…

Abandoned to the streets by her family.  Dirty, no, filthy, and not understanding how to be anything else.  Had to be taught how to take a shower, and about as uncomfortable there as I am missing a shower—or two.

And exactly the kind of kid Hope is there to save.

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and take care of her, make her world better. Let’s even love her, if we get to define the love. But, but . . . don’t expect me to give up my bedrock conviction that we are not the same. I am an educated American. I deserve my station in life. I’ll accept the obligation my position gives me (noblesse oblige, indeed!), but relationship implies a communing between equals, and I’m not ready for that.

It’s a vision thing.


Rewind a bit…

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Selma-to-Montgomery march. The march, perhaps as much as anything, was about vision, about black Americans being seen as full participants in American life, and, in many cases, even being seen as humans.  Vision is a troublesome thing.  It demands that we see some things—like the image of Christ in every person we meet—even as we don’t see others—like color of skin or station in life.

Vision is not about people who look and live like me. It is about the others—and then discovering there are no others.

Jesus describes it this way in Luke 6: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.”

Then he pushes the envelope: “But love your enemies, do good to them . . .”


A question for you. What is your image of Jesus? Not Sunday-morning Jesus, but the two thousand-years-ago-walking-this-earth guy? What did he look like? How did he sound? Did he like the foods you like? How did he smell? Would he have fit in with your friends? At your church? Did he have good manners?

He was probably not the guy I would invite to a Super Bowl party.

But guess who he identified with? Here’s a hint: they did not look like you and me. The Lord I talk to in my prayer time is the brother of the filthy kids on the streets of Brazil. His sister is the little girl in the brothel.  He lived the life of the marcher in Selma; his best friend, the outcast.

But how do I get there—where he was?

How do we as Christians really see others as Christ did?

How do we not define them in terms of who we are—and who they aren’t?


Perhaps we start by learning the difference in identity and circumstance. When we are commanded to take care of the widow, the orphan—when Jesus demands that we give our attention to the least of these, the hungry, the sick, the stranger, the naked, the prisoner—he was not assigning their identity; he was describing their circumstance. Jesus was fine with who they were; he just did not like their contexts.  So, if I can’t recognize the person beyond the circumstance, I need to re-identify Jesus, too.

You don’t have relationships with circumstances; you have relationships with people.

At least that’s how it works when we see them as Jesus did.

One Response to Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gleice

  1. Jocelyn Kurtz April 1, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

    Love your point about learning the difference between circumstance and identity. I was born and raised in lower middle class America, the product of 2 damaged people just trying to do their best. But I had a hunger for God as long back as I can remember. Went forward in a movie theater after a Billy Graham movie at 12 years of age. Loved God, but as a “good kid” didn’t really understand that I was a sinner. Wasn’t until I was 19 years old that God showed me that my heart was “desperately wicked and deceitful beyond all imagination”. God showed me that given the right circumstances at the right time I was capable of anything…the most heinous and despicable of things. Boy, was that a painful revelation. But a revelation that I have never, ever forgotten. And because of it I understand the truth of “there but for the grace of God, go I.”

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