After I got over the shock of discovering I’m one of “those people,” I began to wonder about the distinctions I make. What constitutes being “those people” anyway? We easily divide people into two kinds:
- life-giving people and life-draining people
- cup half-full people and cup half-empty ones
- emotionally healthy Christians and EGRs (Extra Grace Required)
- givers and takers
- doers and complainers
- sheep and goats
- gems and idiots
It all boils down to good people versus bad people. The former we accept; the latter we reject. But life isn’t that clear-cut. We all realized long ago that we’re not completely good nor entirely bad.
Yet there’s a line between acceptability and reject-ability. And if you’re like me, you’re constantly being careful not to cross it. Generally, child abusers, bad drivers, scammers, narcissists, most politicians, and telemarketers have all crossed that line. Specifically, I can name individuals I have put in the category “those people.”
That was before I crossed the line and became one of them. I see things differently from this side. I always liked the fact that Jesus made friends with the rejects, but now that I’m in this group, it’s a life-saver.
For Jesus, there are no distinctions: he loves and accepts us all–unconditionally.
What if we saw each other through Jesus’ eyes? As a friend reminds me, we’re all his favourites. In reference to the parable of the lost sheep, Rev. Stephanie Spellers, an Episcopal priest, says the Good Shepherd doesn’t return the one who is lost to the fold just because it’s in danger out there. It’s also because the ninety-nine other sheep need the one who has gone astray. We need “the other” in our lives and communities for our salvation, Spellers says.
We lost sheep may be difficult and frustrating, but Jesus thinks we’re indispensable.
So the next time you think you’ve crossed the line and have really done it this time, remember this: you’re indispensable and (e-hem) in good company.
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ –Luke 15:1-6 (NRSV)
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Marja Bergen was first hospitalized with a mental illness as a young adult. Though she was sick, no one brought her flowers. Since then Marja has spent her life working to lessen the stigma of mental illness. She founded Living Room, faith-based support groups for people with mood disorders (now part of Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries). She has also written three books—Riding the Roller Coaster, A Firm Place to Stand, and Reflections for our Highs and Lows–and writes weekly meditations sent to hundreds of people who often feel alone and misunderstood. Thank you, Marja. What great love mischief you and God have been doing!