Jesus spent a great deal of time with those considered “the least” in His community. With tax collectors. Women. The unclean. Sinners, Gentiles, and Samaritans.
He went to the marginalized, those the community had pushed out. Some were pushed out due to the community’s understanding of the Law. Some were pushed out due to prejudice or misunderstanding.
Jesus didn’t seem overly concerned about evaluating why someone was pushed out. Whether it was a worthy reason. Whether that person deserved to be there. He just went to the marginalized and He lifted them up. He gave them dignity. He showed them love and that He saw within them a precious creation made in the image of God.
Jesus demonstrated this priority, and then He stated it bluntly in a parable about sheep and goats.
And Jesus charged us to do the same. To have the same priority. To lift up those whom society has pushed down. To love them and give them dignity. To affirm their worth. To demonstrate that the greatest commandment is love.
And yet, we the American church are failing miserably.
Not only are we failing to lift up the marginalized, we are actually creating the marginalized!
We are pushing groups to the fringes, into marginalized status. We are creating the very thing we are supposed to be fighting against.
We bring shame upon the abused. We declare women to be inherently less capable than men. We push people out of the Church who are pursuing God, if that pursuit doesn’t look like we believe it should. We shower judgment on those who are different.
And we condemn those outside the Church for living as though they don’t know God. For living as though they don’t have the power of the Holy Spirit inside them. Essentially, we condemn them for needing God, when they haven’t yet discovered that need.
Many individuals are following Jesus’s example. Many are extending love rather than judgment. But as a whole, as the American church, we are failing.
It’s time for us to recalibrate. To return to Jesus’s model. To stop creating “the least”.
Instead, we must lift up those whom society has pushed down. We must love them and give them dignity. Affirm their worth. And demonstrate to everyone who’s watching that the greatest commandment is love.