Probably my second favourite book of 2013 was a memoir by an American Lutheran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber. In one of the passages I liked best she wrote about how she likes to “box” things: X is good. Y is bad. I like to do that too; it makes life easier if I can categorise things neatly.
But then she talked about why the categorisation habit is a problem. She said that a friend pointed out to her that:
Every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot over the last 10 days or so. It’s pretty challenging. In fact it has got more challenging the more I have thought about it. The longer I mull it over for ways in which it might be wrong, the more I think it’s probably actually right. If it is right, perhaps it’s another way of thinking about how I can learn to see God in everyone, which I would like to be better at.
So I’ve been trying it out. Whenever I sense myself drawing a line between me and something or someone else – you know, distancing myself from whatever it is, I try to stand back and see Jesus over on the other side of the line. I’ve seen him in the homeless person I walk past on Raeburn Place. I’ve had to see in with someone who bugged me… •really• bugged me. I have even seen him in church.
Sometimes he’s easy to see. Sometimes less so, not because he is less present in some places but rather because, I think, I would prefer to see him less in certain places. That’s a rather uncomfortable thought.
My challenge to you is this: try it. Identify some times where you draw a line, and then see if, in fact Jesus is on the other side of it. Perhaps like me, you’ll find that he is. Perhaps, like me, you’ll be reminded not only of the challenge of loving others well, but also of the grace that is given us to enable it.
The quote is from Cranky, Beautiful Faith by Nadia Bolz-Weber.