It's so hip to be part of a group. I'm vegan. I'm a crunchy mama. I'm a minimalist. I'm a hippie. I'm paleo. I'm a fitness junkie. I homeschool. I'm a redneck. Whatever group it is.
We go out and connect with people who are very similar to ourselves and we call it being part of a community but are we ending up being a part of a clique? We claim to be unique, free thinking, individuals and we associate with people who are unique like us, think pretty much the same as us, and express their individuality along similar lines as us. Isn't it a little ironic that hippies look alike in a Birkenstock, bearded, bohemian kind of way? I guess free spirits conform to each other, but not the rest of society?
It's easier to be in community with others who are very similar to us. The challenge comes in being in an active community with others who are are not like us and loving them where they are. It always amazes me how our four kids are so different from each other. When they aren't getting along I say, "Look, if you can learn how to love your siblings well, then you will have a foundation for loving anyone well." And just so we are clear, I love my siblings. Very much.
Because of recent food sensitivity testing I am on a vegan/gluten free diet. I have been eating a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for eighteen years so this isn't too much of a change for me. Although, I miss cheese. A lot. When the test results came back and I told my fifteen year old what foods I was going to have to cut out, he responded, "Uh oh, Mom. You are a vegan, gluten-free, Baptist. That's triple the judge." That made me giggle, but sadly there is some truth to his statement. Some denominations have a reputation of being judgmental. It would also appear there is a judgmental trend growing in trends. All you have to do is read comments on a 'mommy blog' or a 'food blog' or Facebook links to see it. We many times sit back and judge, and we compare ourselves, too; or some sad combination of both. We look down on others, feel better about ourselves, or sometimes worse about ourselves. And then there are those times when the word 'judgmental' is thrown out when what it really is, is we disagree.
Trendism. It's a word I made up. Defined as a trend that has turned into legalism.
What are we doing as Christians? Would we rather be known as a vegan minimalist than a follower of Christ? Do we scream hipster and whisper Christian because being a hipster is so...well...it's so hip and being a Christian can be a turn off? And how are we loving those that don't share similar views as us? Are we allowing these differences in social and political areas to divide the body of Christ in a subtle way? Or maybe not even in a subtle way?
I listened to a podcast a while ago by Erwin McManus and he said a sentence that really stuck with me, "we don't have to agree with each other to love each other."
Let me type that one more time...we don't have to agree with each other to love each other.
If I am a minimalist, but don't have love... if I am a hippie, but don't have love... if I am paleo, but don't have love... if I am a liberal, but don't have love... if I am a conservative, but don't have love... if I homeschool, but don't have love... if I am crunchy, but don't have love...
The greatest is love.
Dallas Willard says, "God has in history increasingly forced people who are unlike together because it is his intention to pull every kind of human being together in one. A unity of one in a social order that is structured on love."
If you want real proof that God wants to do this, just get married.
Thank you, God, that we don't all have to be the same to love each other and for you to use us in beautiful ways. My dad is a pastor and I am a fitness trainer, and we both minister and spread the love of Jesus. I am a follower of Christ who goes to a Baptist church and teaches dance fitness classes (to secular music no less, and that alone would have some people down on their knees in prayer for me and others cheering me on). I love eclectic style and reflect that in how I dress and decorate. And then I take pictures and post them. Some people might be thinking I am full of myself and other people are finding inspiration. I am conservative and I think taking care of this earth is important, social justice does matter to me, yes I give and donate my money and time, and one of my favorite books is by Anne Lamott. That has some people stuck on the word 'conservative' and others gasping at 'Anne Lamott'. I do have a healthy lifestyle, I don't eat a lot of processed foods, I like alternative medicine, but I can put away a bag of salt and vinegar chips like a boss, and there is a bottle of ibuprofen in my cabinet next to the essential oils. That has some people wanting to share potato chips with me and others shaking their head at the ibuprofen in my cabinet.
Our pastor Louie says, "Major on the majors and minor on the minors." We can't love well when we major on the minors.
We have the privilege of having our neighbors' sheep graze on our property. I love looking out the window and seeing sheep. They are SO FLUFFY! When I look at the sheep, I can't help but think of Scripture. How we are like sheep and he is a shepherd. When I walk out to the sheep whatever one or two decide to do, the rest will follow. I have pictures that prove it. Are we following along and allowing these labels to define our self image? Is that where we are finding our identity even while ministering? Or are we finding our true identity in Christ?
Dear Church, are we allowing trends to divide us? Are we spending our time in an isolated clique? Have we traded our identity in Christ for an identity in hipster?
The other day the kids called me outside because one of the lambs got stuck in the fence and the neighbors were gone. The wire fence was wrapped several times tightly around the lamb's neck. When I first started to untangle it, she kept fighting against me. I kept talking to her calmly and gently and I was able to get a little untangled so it was looser around her neck and then she settled down. After a couple of minutes, I got her untangled and she was fine. And free.
I was thinking today how I am like that lamb. I get so wrapped up in a fence of trying to please people or prove something. I get caught in the fence of wanting relief or control. Louie also says that "everything we do, we do according to our self image". Why is it so important to me that my self image is defined by some life style? When my identity is found in Christ, he comes and lovingly unwraps the ways I try to manage my self image. Louie has three categories for his identity in Christ: son, servant, soldier. I decided yesterday during the church service that my categories for my identity in Christ are delightful daughter, beautiful bride, compassionate servant, and warrior princess. I had to add the adjectives because I am a little dramatic like that.
It's okay to have interests, passions, hobbies, a style of life, and it's okay to spend time with people who are similar. But when that is what defines us, when that is where our identity is, when we become an exclusive community, we are caught in a fence unable to be free. And we can love so much more when we are free.
Dallas Willard says, "The church is a school of love. It's where we go to learn how to love our neighbors. And our neighbors are first of all our families. Then we go back into the home and bring the healing that has happened to us into community. And then we step out of our home into our social arena and live there as persons of truth and love. And that, my dear friends, is what the world is dying for."
And may this be so. Amen.