On our return trip from Starved Rock to New Lenox, Marcy and I passed through Ottawa, IL to be refreshed by a local coffee shop with an inspiring story – Jeremiah Joe Coffee. Ottawa reminded me a great deal of Charleston, WV, which is a great comparison for the Illinois town.
As we drove on, we passed a church with their marquee – “What’s the best vitamin for a Christian? B1.” – and a banner. The banner got me worked up a bit, and maybe you will see why. It read, “Jesus didn’t reject anyone. Neither do we.”
In response, I plainly said aloud, “Yes, He did.” Marcy looked up to see what I was talking about, and I explained what I saw and what I was saying.
“The Scribes and the Pharisees,” I said, “He called them vipers.” (See Matthew 12:34, 23:32-34)
Now, the spirit of the banner is one thing, and to love one’s neighbor in spite of any shortcomings or differences is a great thing. Of course we are all in need of this kind of love.
But the “love” that says anything goes, that permits any behavior as long as it is not immediately painful to others, the “love” that puts heavy burdens on some so that others may feel comfortable about whatever they are doing – that is plainly not what Jesus represented.
Love, rather, says that I am redeemable in spite of the sinful things I do. Love says not to put heavy burdens on others so that I may feel comfortable or even proud of my own state; instead, I ought to carry my cross.
Jesus, it can be argued, accepted so many of the social outcasts because they were genuinely prepared to love like this. They did not have haughty selves to abandon – they had lowly, sinful selves that they were very eager to abandon. They were ready for true nobility.