Jesus is common ground.
What I mean is not that we all think the same way about everything, but that we think the same way about one very, very important and central idea.
Two millenia ago, Jesus set this example.
People matter. They are worth dying for.
From here on out, all our disagreements about church dogma and proper Christianity pale in comparison to our agreement upon that central tenet.
A lot of time, we see the idea that people matter reduced to the simple platitude “God is Love”, and while 1 John 4:7-8 give us those exact words, the real love he is talking about is a love so enormous and so selfless that we see a more precise definition in John 15:13 - “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Once we accept this idea, we start to realize that our concerns over whether or not we buy Chik-fil-a or whether or not we vote Republican or whether or not we listen to secular music all PALE in comparison to whether or not we treat the lady in the drive through with Christlike love.
Let me give an example.
In the summer, I sell educational books door-to-door. My job is to work from 7:59 AM until 9:31 PM with no breaks, but core to sales (at least, the style of sales I’m willing to do) is the carefree willingness to let your prospects decide whether or not to become customers. Sure, you have to be pleasantly persistent, but if you aren’t genuinely willing to accept a rejection, your day of 90% rejection will feel like an unending series of slaps in the face.
Some of the really Type-A bookpeople knock three times on the door and say out loud, “I’m coming in!” (one word per knock) to establish their confidence.
I found that didn’t work for me. I had to say “I love you” on my three knocks.
In my first summer, and for the first half of my second, I worked for myself. I worked to prove to myself that I wasn’t afraid of hard work, and so when I prayed, I prayed for my own strength. “God, give me the capacity to love Mrs. Jones even though I don’t know her yet.”
By the second half of my second summer, that wasn’t working anymore. I needed something different, and I found it following a bookwoman of immense spiritual strength. She prayed at the beginning of the day for God to give her three people to pray for, and by the end of the day, God had.
I spent the last four weeks of the summer starting each day with that same prayer, and what amazed me most was that over the course of each day, no one ever rejected my offer to pray for him or her. I never offered until I had packed up all my stuff to leave (I didn’t want anyone to think I was namedropping Jesus to make a sale), but I also didn’t lead with a screening question like “are you a believer?” yet still no one ever said no. I never even got an obligation yes. (Trust me, after a few months of sales, you learn what an obligation yes sounds like). Many seemed to be genuinely relieved that I offered.
I prayed over a woman who was diagnosed with cancer that very morning and didn’t realize the coincidence of diagnosis and prayer until a week later.
That sort of divine timing worked out at least twice a week.
I think the reason they all agreed to pray with me because Jesus’s most deeply held conviction served as our common ground. He taught us that people matter. He taught us that they are worth dying for.
And when you believe that at the very core of your being, others can feel your conviction that they do truly matter.
I don’t think this means that you never experience rejection when sharing the gospel; many of you LDS readers know that firsthand. I just think that Jesus was guiding my steps with kid gloves because He knew the fragile state I was in. He knew that I needed to be reminded that I have treasures far more valuable than educational books to share.
In my summers on the bookfield, Jesus taught me that people matter enough to risk getting a door slammed in your face in order to remind them that they are unconditionally loved.
Jesus taught me that whether or not I believe in global warming and marriage equality and affirmative action matters far less than whether or not I approach those dialogues with humility and with the assumption that my opponent’s motives are pure - that he isn’t really my opponent at all when we both seek to promote human flourishing and the protection of God’s created beings.
Jesus taught me that the way we treat our cashiers matters far more than whether we are shopping at Chik-fil-a or Home Depot.
People matter. He staked his life on that.
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