There is a story I heard at Ecclesia that has had a marked impression on my worldview. It goes like this:
A man was speaking in a remote part of the world and he was sharing the gospel with the indiginous people, through an interpreter. He kept referencing two terms, "Christian" and "non-Christian". The interpreter was having difficulty and he finally stopped the speaker. He said, "Excuse me, sir. With all due respect, what is this word you are using, "non-Christian"? We do not have a translation for it."
The man said, rather arrogantly, "Well, it's not that hard. Just take the word "Christian" and use the opposite of it. Use a prefix that negates it."
The interpreter answered him meekly, but with confidence. "I'm sorry, sir. But such a thing does not exist in our language or in our understanding of people. We believe that people are either redeemed, or they are in the process of redemption."
Redeemed or in the process of redemption.
What would it look like if we viewed people that way, for real? Rather than seeing them in categories that divide into us and them, something and its opposite, what would happen if we realized that we are all together on this journey, just in different places along the road? Admit it, even as believers, while we're still on this earth, we will never feel as if we've fully "arrived" in terms of our faith. So, why do we feel it necessary to measure where everyone is in that spectrum? It's so pointless! Thinking this way does not water down the unique role of Christ, nor does it deny our need for his transforming power in our lives. It just eliminates our desire to quantify and categorize something that is clearly and mysteriously beyond either of those capabilities.
I spent two separate weeks with a really refreshing group of people. The conversation was real. Unfiltered. People expressed what they thought and there was a freedom in it, knowing that even the most absurd comment wouldn't bring judgment upon them. People lived, plain and simple, vibrant and full. I think that's beautiful.
Yes, part of that way of living is me-centered. I say what I want, when I want, regardless of how it will effect someone else.
But doesn't that me-centerd living exist within Christian circles, too, just with a different spin? I filter my thoughts and I will only say what I should, what is right, or what is appropriate in any given context. Not necessarily for the benefit of those around me, but because I want to save face, look good, be accepted, fit in.
Jesus didn't worry about those things. He spoke his mind and lived fully and freely (yet, always in submission to his Father), which is why so many of the elite saw him as a rebel and an outsider. Maybe for that reason he was able to truly connect with those on the fringes of society. I wish I had the courage to be that way more often... I wish I had the ability to see people simply for who they are, regardless of what labels are placed upon them or what assumptions are made. I also long to be one of those people who isn't marked by the distinctions of others. What we have in common with people is so often greater than our differences, anyway. Why don't we live that way?