I came across this in James Bryan Smith’s The Good and Beautiful Life. A letter someone wrote to the author started with the salutation “James, in who Christ lives” and ended with “Jane, in who Christ lives”.
I sat down and wrote down a list of names. Family, friends, people I used to know, people I like, people I don’t like. And next to every name I wrote “in who Christ lives”.
Next to the names of people I’d throw myself in front of a train for.
Next to the names of people I might have second thoughts about shoving in front of a train if no one else was around.
Next to the names of people who have hurt me, forgotten me, discarded me, people who love me, cherish me and laugh at my stupid jokes. People I know well and people I don’t really know at all.
Because there really is no difference.
Once you sit down and think about it, what people are in relation to you is secondary. Because, first and foremost, whether they know it, acknowledge it, live it, or deserve it, they are all Christ’s.
He feels about them the way He feels about you. He died for them. He rose for them.
This should change the way we deal with people. People we know well and people we don’t know at all. People we see for hours every day and people we see for five seconds. They are all His.
Every last one of them.
Even the asses.
And He calls on us to share in this love.
In case you’re thinking this is setting the bar too high, Jesus gets how difficult it is for us. In Matthew 10 He says,
“This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance.”
Cup of water = letting someone in ahead of you in traffic, saying “Good morning” to a cashier, letting a nasty remark slide because you know you’ve had bad days, giving someone the benefit of the doubt, inviting the new neighbours who don’t really ‘fit in’ over for dinner, picking up a tab, doing the dishes, calling someone who isn’t feeling well, charity work, listening to a story you’ve heard before, forgiving someone, etc etc.
Jesus isn’t after faithful church attendance or halos or angelic choir mashups.
He isn’t after religion. He’s after mercy (Matthew 9).