Humanizing our Demons

We live in a world ruled by fear.
We are constantly reacting to that fear.

We are taught to fear. We cling to stereotypes because it helps us feel safer. We are told to fear the unknown because it is out of our control. We think those who “look like me” are safe, so we demonize those who act, talk, worship, and dress differently.

We now know what to fear. We must fear the “Other.”

The Other.

The non-American (or whatever country you might call home).
The one who doesn’t speak MY language.
The one who dresses weirdly.
That one who prays differently.

They are the “Other.”

We consider them untrustworthy, violent, hate-filled, unschooled, and barbaric. We throw labels at the unknown and wish to believe that everyone who is like the “Other” falls into those labels. We want to believe that the stereotypes are real.

But, heaven forbid, if they dare attempt to label me as “Other.”

It always baffles me when people get offended by stereotypes that they themselves use. I’m not saying that stereotypes and labels are good, not by a long shot. But, we as humans are delusional if we think we can use these “tools” with impunity and not expect to have them thrown back at us.

We need to humanize our demons. Or, more correctly,  what we have deemed to be our demons. The boogeyman that haunts our ideal world. The simple fact of us not trusting those who look and act differently than us.

In our actions of demonizing a culture that we don’t understand nor make any attempt to understand, is in fact demonizing US to THEM. We become the demons of their fear.

Honestly, how can we expect the world to care for the blight of a people group, if we cannot even care to shake the hand of someone who looks nothing like us?

Because we fear, we attack a person rather than an ideal.

The reason I started to think about this, is due to something that really should not have been news. It should have been common decency, but instead it went viral.

A man in the UK made the decision to sit next to a woman in full Muslim garb on a crowded train.
The reason this is so important is that on that packed train, people were making the very distinct decision of refusing to sit near this woman. There were empty seats around her. People were standing because they were choosing to demonize a woman with the stereotypes that have been put on her religion and culture.
This man on the other hand, vocally denounced this demonization by saying, “I’ll sit here!” Even though no other words were exchanged between them for the ride, this man declared that woman as “human” despite the actions of others.
When that woman got up for her stop, she supposedly said a whispered thank you to the man who ignored the mob mentality and rose above it.

This should not have made the news! But, it did because of how rare it is in today’s society for someone to go against the group and against fear based hatred.

What do you think Jesus would have done if he was on that train? Do you really think that he would have been standing in the group of people attempting to ignore the covered woman?

We want to believe that what we know is right. That nothing can be wrong with our stereotypes. That these ‘safe’ labels are truth. And that no one is harmed by them, but rather protected.

It’s time to start humanizing people again. No matter what religion a person professes, they deserve to be seen as human. When we place labels on someone, we remove our ability to see them as human. We no longer see them as a child made by God. A child that God loved so much that he sent his Son to die on a rough wooden Cross to save. We no longer see God’s love when we look at those who we refuse to see as human.

While drastic comparisons are sometimes hard to swallow, it’s also easier to point to instances that have gained historical perspective: One of the most effective actions of the Nazi regime was to dehumanize their enemies. The Jewish people were seen as lesser, in some propaganda they were equated to rats.
The same thing could be seen in the slave trade. Beasts of burden and the lesser race were all labels placed on the kidnapped Africans. These are the same labels that are being placed upon those pressed into hard work under atrocious conditions even today.

We live in a world where placing labels on others gives us power. It makes us feel a pseudo safety that disappears like vapor when people refuse to cave under the pressure of the stereotypes.

In many ways, when we dehumanize others we are in effect demonizing ourselves because we deny the image of God in those we are dealing with.

When we refuse to release our labels and assumptions regarding someone else, we devalue them. We make them lesser in our eyes. We become elitist in our ideals.

We also make it easier to not reach out a helping hand when they are in need. We don’t see them as worthy of our time and money. They don’t belong.

Sadly, the stringing our safety nets of false thinking can devalue the personhood of another person so much that we find their deaths to be acceptable.  Perhaps slightly sad, but to be expected because they were “Other.”

It is much easier to kill someone who is nothing like you. To kill a person who is so vastly different from what is considered safe, is easier than realizing that he is just a man who works hard to provide for his family. Or she’s just a woman who is worried about her mother who is in the hospital.

It’s time to start seeing God when we look at each other. It’s time to start humanizing humanity again. We must not let fear rule us.

The world is only going to change when we start seeing that something worth fighting for, can be found in the eyes of a stranger.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind.
~~ 2 Timothy 1:7

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Teach Me to Love

Racism.
A nasty word that gets the dander up around the world.
As it should.
I’ve been watching America become more restless and more divided as accusations of police brutality are reported on while African- American men are being buried.
I watch churches and ‘well-meaning’ Christians be part of the divisions, as angry words are thrown like daggers at their brothers and sisters.
Ferguson and New York, two towns that have created waves across America.
Two men died, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But, they aren’t the only ones.
The spotlight is being shined hard on those with a badge.

Does racism play a part in these deaths? I don’t know.
Does it play a part in the trials of those held responsible for the deaths? I don’t know.
Does it play a part in the everyday life of thousands of people? This, I do know.
Does the church need to step up and really face this issue head on? YES

I’ve been quiet about this issue, not because I’m afraid of working on it, but because so many people are adding their voice. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what you really think when you get everyone else’s opinion. But, silence can be even more damning that misspoken words.
There is so much anger right now.
Righteous anger is good, anger bound in hate is not..
No matter what type of video or reports come out, I do not know exactly what happened because I wasn’t there. I can’t say if an officer defended himself or acted out of hate. I can’t say if the men who died acted in violence or if they were innocent.
There has been accusations on both accounts.

I refuse to add to those accusations.
Adding to them will not help anyone. It just causes more anger.

So, the question I ask myself is this: “What does God want me to do?”

He wants me to love. Love people on both sides of the argument. God does. He commands his followers to do the same. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

There are no distinctions on who to love and who not to love. There is no command to not love someone. It is a blanket command to love EVERY single person that you come in contact with. “One another” does not mean to love the person who looks like you, talks like you, prays like you. God makes no distinctions. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.…(John 3:16-17)”

So why do we decide that God doesn’t mean “THEM”? Why do we, believers, decide that we live in a “Us vs. Them” world? It isn’t God who is causing this hatred, this distrust in our hearts. It’s not just our interactions of white vs. black. It’s all interaction with all races. I’ve heard some people honestly say that racism is only against the ‘black’ population… No.

No matter what color of skin you might have, what culture you might come from, what ethnic identity you might declare– you will have people hating what you ‘stand for’ in their eyes. We are surrounded in a world that ‘-isms’ us to death. And you and I will always be hated by somebody for something.

We do not live in a world that is ran by God’s command to Love one anotherBut, that doesn’t mean that can’t be one who does. I cannot influence one other person to love those that their history says to fear, if I do not live in love. 

The news with all of it’s fear, makes me honestly look at myself. What do I believe? How do I react? Am I fearful of the unknown? Do I believe in stereotypes? Do I let other people’s fear influence my relationships?

The only way the world will change in reaction to racism, sexism, class-ism, etc… is if individually we change. The only way that is going to happen is if we ask God to create that change in us, in all of it’s uncomfortable, painful, awkward, grace.

If you allow me the grace to change, will you be my friend? The only way I will learn, is if you help me understand. Teach me. Perhaps, you and I can change the world, if we look through each other’s eyes.

God loves you. He loves me. I pray we can both love each other. All lives matter. Because God has created us equal. No man has the power to say we are not royalty, for we are God’s children.

If your Church isn’t family…you’re doing it wrong!

My church is my family.
I love my little country church, because I know they are there for me.
This summer for me has been a perfect example of the cohesiveness that should be found in a family and most assuredly should be found in a church, due to the way that my church- my family-has watched over me, prayed over me, helped and encouraged me. I was given summer jobs when I most needed it by my small church. A church of less than 50 people have kept me working for the first half of my 3 month summer break. This is the way a family works. This is the way the Church should work. Caring for one another in everything.
God created this wonderful entity that is the Church when Christ told Peter, “on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18)”
Throughout the writing of Paul in particular, but all of the New Testament, we find examples of what the Church should be.
* It should be a united body- 1 Corinthians 12:12-26
*That does not show favoritism- Galatians 3:28
* We are to love one other because God first loved us (this means the unbeliever and the most annoying person that you can think about)- Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 7:9,  1 Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 5:11, Micah 6:8, Matthew 22:36-40, Luke 6:31-36, John 3:1, 16,14:21-25,15: 9-13, Romans 5:8, 1 Corinthians 13, 16:14, Galatians 5:13-14, 5:22-23
* We should show gratitude to Christ and love to each other- Colossians 3:14-16
* We are raised together to be a Holy Temple to God- Ephesians 2:19-22
* We are to bear one another’s burdens- Galatians 6:2
* We are not to be ashamed of God’s Word- 2 Timothy 2:15
* We are to be devoted to fellowship, prayer, and the teachings of the Bible- Acts 2:42
* We should be known as followers of Christ by our love for one another- John 13:35
* We are to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in our present age- Titus 2:11-12 
*  We are to become more like Christ as we mature spiritually with the help of our Church body– Ephesians 4:11-16
* We are to guard the proper teachings of the Church by allowing only faithful and trustworthy teachers- 2 Timothy 2:1-2
*
 We are to beware of many false teachers –Matthew 7:15-20, Matthew 24:11
        *  They will introduce false teachings and deny the Sovereign Lord- 2 Peter 2:1
*
 We are to be careful of the obstacles such false teachers place before us to cause      disunity- Romans 16:17
*
People will find their own teachers because they can’t endure sound teachings from the Scripture- 2 Timothy 4:3
* We-  every believer- are to test the teachings and the spirits to make sure they are from God, because there are so many false teachers in this world- 1 John 4:1
* Our Church should be presented as pure, holy, and sinless to the husband and head- Jesus Christ.- Corinthians 11:1-15
*This means not allowing politics, fads, controversy, or conspiracy theories to cause us to change the Gospel by adding or removing any part of the Scripture- Proverbs 30:5-6, Revelations 22:18-19, Deuteronomy 4:2
This is just a little bit of what the Church is suppose to look like.
God’s plans are for His Church is to change the world. We are to change it by loving it. Not bashing it over the head by saying how wrong they are about everything, but by gently, reverently, lovingly, showing them the truth.
We aren’t to take stands against people like the Westboro Baptist Church does- where we show intolerance and hatred, because Christ DID NOT do that! He died for those the WBC says God hates! No. Jesus Christ died to save the sinner. He died a horrible death for the WBC just as much as He died for the homosexual, the adulterer, the abortionist,  the thief, the liar, the murderer, the gossip, the child molester, the rapist, the soldier, the teacher, the president, the priest, and so many more.
Jesus Christ died for each of us. Because He LOVED us. You, me, we are the same. No matter your background, no matter your future, you were considered worthy enough to save. Because our God loved us! John 3:16, Hebrews 9:26-28
God doesn’t hate a person. He hates the thing that keeps us away from us- our sin! He hates anything that would keep us away from Him, anything that makes us unrighteous and ungodly. If He hated us, as in the person, there would have been no reason to die for us! But, He wanted to rebuild our relationships with Him, so God did the ultimate thing. He sent His one and only Son to die a horrible death on a human-made torture device so that we might be saved. Saved so we can enter into our fixed relationship with the One and Only God. 1 Peter 3:18, Ephesians 3:12, Colossians 1:22, Hebrews 9:14, 
As a Christian who follows a loving God, I wish to extend my deepest apologies and sorrow to those who have been hurt in any way by those who proclaim to be Christian. I am so sorry that the Church which should be a loving family, who should love all who are considered God’s children – which is EVERY HUMAN ON THIS PLANET!- has caused harm in the name of that God.
We are broken humans. We wish to take the throne from the Sovereign Lord because we believe we can rule better than He. Wake up everyone! We’re in this mess in the first place because we listened to the Serpent in the Garden when he said, “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:4).” We believed the guy who is known as the Prince of Lies! Satan was thrown out of Heaven because he thought he was better than GOD! (Isaiah 14:12-17)  We are once again allowing the Prince of Lies to turn our heads from the teachings of the Gospel. We are allowing him to twist what we learn, so that we won’t even open the Bible anymore to learn for ourselves what is truth.
This is where you need a firm foundation. To find a church that will guide you on the right path. A church that allows and encourages you to open your Bible and read it for yourself. Every person who seeks the True God, needs to know the Scripture for themselves. So that we are not swayed by good sounding rhetoric. So that things that sound like Scripture are proven either false or truth. Because the Devil is in the details. He likes to use just enough truth to make it sound right, when in actuality you are signing the dotted line with your soul– and all those who follow you.
When your church is family, you will fight hard to keep each member’s eyes on God. You will put your blood, your sweat, your tears into making sure that person is growing and loving God. You will work to protect them from false teachings. You will stop their meandering covetous eyes and ears from following a false teachers.
If your church is family- you will listen to their guiding. You will trust their love. You will seek their prayers. You will encourage them as much as they encourage you.
The church is not meant to harm another in the name of God, but to love them with a deep an abiding love as God loves us. We are meant to love God so much that our very natures change and that love overflows to others. We are meant to love God so much that others will wish to meet the God that changed us.
Is your church family?

2 Timothy 4:5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.