Message in the Music: What I Learned from Fela

Yesterday my husband and I went to see a musical about the Afro-beat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. And let me tell you, it was awesome. Between the amazing drum beats which took me back to the days when I studied dance with the Ko-thi Dance Company in Milwaukee and the wonderful jazz sounds coming out of the horn section, I was enthralled. And my husband was too, which is important since he has actually had an opportunity to see Fela perform while he was still alive. Based on this and growing up hearing his music, my husband had the bar set pretty high – but the performers brought it 110% and so he was pleased.

The music and dance were not the only thing we were paying attention to. We were keying in to the message, the words of the songs that were being sung to our very souls. Albeit some of them were profane, but they all hung on this single theme – justice for the oppressed. This theme of justice was woven throughout Fela’s music all throughout his life. Through the music, Fela spoke to the corrupt government and power structures not only in Nigeria but around the world. He challenged the status quo, went against the grain, and called these wicked forces into account for their actions. And although his actions came with a high price, never for a second did he back down from his commitment to turn the world upside down for the sake of justice.

One of the forces or entities that he challenged was the church, or let me say more broadly organized religion because he had his problems with Islam too. But in speaking, or for that matter, singing about the church he recognized that the same people who brought  Jesus to Nigeria also brought colonization. The same missionaries who preached salvation, also robbed the country of its wealth. And then when Nigeria finally received its independence from their grip, they still kept hold of the country’s strings and paid corrupt leaders to continue with the whole charade that they were seeking freedom from.

I don’t blame Fela for his resentment. In the name of Christ, people did some really horrendous things not only in Nigeria but the whole world over. They have colonized, enslaved, raped, pillaged, stolen, oppressed, and killed so many lives under the disguise of Jesus. But if you look at Jesus, which will require you to seriously read your Bible, He does not look like any of these things. Honestly, Jesus looks a whole lot like Fela, the cussing and illicit sex aside. Like Fela, Jesus challenged the powers of His day. Though He did not sing, well maybe He did, He spoke to the evil regimes, the government, even the religious leaders of His day, calling instead for the freedom of prisoners, sight for the blind, and freedom for the oppressed!

So where does that leave you and me? Seriously, we have a choice to make and it is about time that we do it! For far too long, we, and by we I mean the people of God, have been comfortable with the association of God’s name with absolute wickedness. And we have even been involved perpetrating it! We supposedly care so much about abortion and homosexuality, as if these were the unpardonable sins, yet we are completely ignoring what God has to say about oppression and injustice. Do we not take the words of Jesus in Matthew 25.31-46 seriously or do we just not care?

Or maybe we just don’t know. Maybe we have forgotten. Maybe we have become too comfortable, have gotten caught up, sidetracked, blind-sighted or whatever else. Regardless of where we find ourselves in all of this, God is calling us to turn our ears and our hearts to the cries of the suffering all around us. God wants us to respond to homelessness, hunger, poverty, racism, genocide and every other evil, not just with words but with deeds.

Although there is much more that I can say on this topic, I will end with this thought found in the New Testament book of James:

Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world (James 1.26, 27 The Message).

Many of us consider ourselves religious, spiritual, God-fearing believers. But according to James if our talk is not backed up with actions that relieve the plight of the oppressed, we are only blowing hot air. Let’s not just blow air or talk a weak game that has no power!  Instead, let’s take our part in advancing justice in our community, city, country and world for the sake of Jesus Christ.

A Dose of Perspective

It may come as a surprise to many of you, especially of those who know me really well, that my express goal or purpose in life is not to see social justice and reconciliation realized. I know that is quite a shocker given practically everything that I write or talk about but truth be told that is not my aim. My desire for social justice, for reconciliation is rooted in something so much bigger – the glorification of the name of Jesus.

I take Jesus’ prayer in John 17 quite seriously. It is a long prayer and so I wont rehearse it all here, but in it he prays that his followers would exemplify unity and love so that the world would believe that he is real. The world, or people who don’t follow Christ, is much better at connecting the dots here as the Church, or rather those who represent it, don’t often act in loving ways. In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, we have perpetuated a lot of injustice, including but not limited to war, genocide, colonization, slavery, poverty, and segregation. When people on the outside of the church look at these things, not only are they discouraged by what they see but they do not want to have anything to do with it. As a result, people are not coming to know the Lord, something I deem absolutely essential.

My desire is to re-write the narrative. I cannot change history, but with people of like mind and heart, I can affect the future. I desire to see the injustices of this day, injustices that we see in our political system that creates classes of have and have nots, injustices that force a mother to choose between putting gas in her car so she can get to work or food on her table so that her children can eat, injustices that breed corrupt foreign governments, injustices that wipe out entire people groups, put to an end so that as few barriers exist for people coming to know the Lord. I desire to see racial and ethnic divides destroyed so that people begin to live in unity instead of in fear of the other. I desire to see this because the alternative is just too much to bear- people living lives here on earth and in eternity, is just not an option for me. I hope that it is neither an option for you.

Would that we as a church begin to take a stand against these things, the things that break the heart of God, instead of standing for systems that prohibit people from coming into the kingdom of God! THIS is why, I do what I do!

What Happens When You Are Not Fully Human

A self-righteous, religious leader once asked Jesus a question. “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law (Matthew 22.36)?” And although Jesus knew that in his questioning, this man was up to no good, he responded “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22.37-39). For the reason that this man did not ask Jesus this question because he really cared much less wanted to know what the heart of God was, I want to believe that upon receiving this newfound information that he did not do anything with it. I suggest that he probably thought to himself, ‘Oh, well that’s nice’ and tried never to think about it again. Maybe this is just because his original intent was to catch Jesus messing up, hoping that his question would provoke an answer that would show the world that this man was a quack. Or maybe, just maybe it was because he really did not like his answer.

Love the Lord your God…with everything! This I am sure he knew, as I am sure we all know, is essential, pivotal to our spiritual wellbeing. Although I do not suggest that we do this, in fact, we are far away from loving God in the way that the scripture admonishes us to. If you don’t believe me. just have an honest conversation with yourself and tell me where are you are at on this one. Believe me, we all fall short in this area, but yet on some level we know that this is what we need to achieve. But what about that loving your neighbor as yourself nonsense? Why did Jesus put that in there? Because in fact, that is where all sin stems from, the failure to either love God or to love one’s neighbor. Just look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, briefly:

*Have no other gods before God (failure to love God)
*Don’t worship idols (failure to love God)
*Don’t take name of the Lord in vain (failure to love God)
*Remember the Sabbath (failure to love God)
*Honor your parents (failure to love your neighbor)
*Don’t murder (failure to love your neighbor)
*Don’t commit adultery (failure to love your neighbor)
*Don’t steal (failure to love your neighbor)
*Don’t lie (failure to love your neighbor)
*Don’t covet your neighbors stuff (failure to love your neighbor)

Ok, so now we know that there is some stake in us loving our neighbor as ourselves. But do we do this? On some level, we have failed to understand who are neighbor is. If you are still looking for a definition of that, read Luke 10.30-37, because I actually want to highlight something else. I think that on a very, twisted, deeper level that not only do we not understand who our neighbor is but that we fail to see that they could possibly be anything like us. We fail to see our neighbor, the other, as fully human and therefore fully deserving of love, respect, and dignity.

No, you don’t believe me. Ha. That’s fine, I did not think you would. But follow my train of thought, and by the end you will see where I am going with this.

During the period of slavery in this country, one idea that circulated was that black people had a different biological makeup than that of white people. Some even went as far as to suggest that black people were of a whole different species than whites. Which is fairly convenient, if you ask me, because in somehow proving, albeit falsely, so lets go with advocating, that black people are somehow biologically less than whites you have made a case that justifies maltreatment, slavery, rape, conquest, theft, discrimination, mass incarceration, exclusion from resources and so much more, that continues to this day.

The same can be said of our neighbors abroad in places like China, India, South Africa, Iraq, etc. We call these neighbors third world neighbors, or if you ask me, a third human. I bet you did not like that one, but lets be honest. Just because a country is not developed (and by whose standard are we measuring this development anyways, whose to say this is an accurate assessment based on the needs and resources of a given land, but that’s another story) does not mean that they are in a lesser world than we are in. Just because they may not possess the infrastructure, technology, government, and economy that perhaps America or England possesses does not mean that they should be labeled a third world nation. But in doing so, we are now justified in exploiting their land, and yes this still goes on though the ‘days’ of slavery and colonization are over. And we are justified in taking their resources without ever feeling that we should compensate for doing so, going as far as prohibiting people from those lands to come and somehow make a way for their family through cheap labor and taxes (yes, I am talking about immigration). And we are justified in ignoring their need for food, water, safety, and life, patting ourselves on the back anytime we throw a dollar their way because ‘we made a difference.’ We feel justified, because we have made them less than our neighbor and we do not see them in the same light that we see ourselves.

The same can also be said, and now I am going to really step on some toes, of the unborn. Ok, I am just going to come out and say it- abortion. Understand that I am not suggesting that a woman should not have a right to choose, that is an argument that I do not even want to touch right now. But, what I want to address is this whole idea of when life begins. Fertilization? Conception? 4 Weeks? 12 Weeks? 20 Weeks? 26 Weeks? 40 Weeks? Delivery? It is this question and our answer to it, that gives us permission to treat the unborn a certain way. Because if life does not begin until one is born, well then, this idea of humanness does not either, which once again justifies treating the unborn as some unrelated entity of us.

“Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind…and your neighbor as yourself.” If we are truly loving our neighbors as we love ourselves, we have to start seeing our neighbors as ourselves- fully human, completely loved by God, and worthy of every blessing that we afford ourselves. Let’s stop making qualifiers of who belongs and who does not belong to the human race based on race, age, ethnicity, religion, or socio-economic status because we all belong- our only task is to learn how to get along.

All You Need Is Love

Do you remember the Beatles hit song from 1967, All You Need Is Love?. Well I don’t, I was not even alive much less thought about back then. But I know it, and today, for some reason, it is has been running through my head. All you need is love, all you need is love, all you need is love, love, love is all you need.

I did a little research on the song on Wikipedia. Hey, I know its not the most reliable source and so feel free to correct me if my findings are wrong. The Wiki article states that the Beatles were asked to come up with a song that could be understood by all nationalities and would not be subject to misinterpretation. This idea of love being everything was that song, and its simple message has been widely accepted ever since.

Jesus had a similar message, actually, he had the exact same one. Although he did not make a hit song out of it, his message did manage to make it to the top of the Ten Commandments and even exceeded them. When a religious leader of his day asked him which of the commandments was the greatest one, Jesus responded: ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’ (Matthew 22.37-39).

You see, Jesus was saying that everything in the entire law, in the entire Old Testament could be summed up with one thing: love. It was love for God that would keep people honoring the Sabbath day and that would keep people from worshiping anything else. It was love for one’s neighbor that would keep people from committing murder, adultery or spreading lies about them.

Although we are 2,000 years out from Jesus’ original message, it still applies today. Loving God with all of our heart mind and soul, and loving our neighbor as ourselves is truly all we need. Just think if we actually did that. Every single problem that we have- terrorism, war, genocide, poverty, unjust laws, sex trafficking, mass hatred for the other, racism, unemployment, sexism, family disputes, crime, homicide, suicide, drugs, and so much more- would solve itself instantly. When we act out of love and put the needs of others first, we have no other choice but to lay aside all selfish ideology and behavior. And when we do that, we in fact create a better society, a better country, a better world where in fact our very needs are met because we are all loving one another and treating one another with dignity and respect. That’s the kind of world that I want to live in.

HOPE

Recently, my husband and I went to visit with a friend who lost a loved one. It was a very somber visit where the feeling of grief and sorrow was in the air. We, along with everyone else present, hoped that our gathering would offer some relief, some comfort. But really, how can one be comforted in the midst of such pain?

As we left, I took a moment to reflect. I thought to myself, and outloud to my husband, that it does not matter how old the person who has died is. We hope that they are older and have lived a long life, but the truth is that we still grieve tremendously even if the person we have lost is 101. It also does not matter how they go. Though some means seem to be more tragic than others, such as a car accident or a shooting, the fact of the matter is that death in and of itself is a tragic experience.

Why is death so tragic? Why do we seem to be so taken back by its presence, especially considering that it happens to all of us. No matter how good or how righteous you live, you die. No matter how horrible and evil you live, you die. If it is so common, so natural, and has characterized life since Adam and Eve, why do we have such a hard time with it?

I would suggest it is because it is not natural. Although we all experience death, it was not apart of God’s original design. His original design consisted of everlasting life which was cut short as a result of sin. God warned Adam and Eve, saying that they could eat of any tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil-“For in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen. 2.17). But they ate and God stayed true to his word, knowing that if he allowed them to continue to live, they would live forever with the effects of sin. Death, then, was an act of mercy. For it was in death that people could still be granted an opportunity to live forever.

This opportunity of living forever did not come until the advent and death of Christ. Because of him, all of him who follow him with their lives also live with him in eternity. This is what Paul speaks of in I Corinthians 15-“DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” Yet, for those who choose to reject Christ, this victory is not realized and instead a second death takes place which is final, irreversible, and awful. But still, neither can be experienced until we cross over from this life to the next by means of death. And that is where we feel the grief, and will continue to experience the grief, until this world has passed away and the new has come.

We were made to live forever. Although we cannot keep ourselves from experiencing death, we can choose eternal life by surrendering our lives to God while we still have breath. God has placed eternity in each of our hearts, that is why we long to live forever. I hope and I pray that we all choose life.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently
-Romans 8.24, 25 NASB

Reclaiming Very Goodness

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good and God separated that light from darkness…and there was evening and there was morning, one day.

Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters. God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so….and there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so…and God saw that it was good. The God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their own kind with seed in them”; and it was so…and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day. (Genesis 1.1-13)

For three more days, this pattern of God creating out of nothingness continues. He creates lights, seasons, days and years. He creates waters full of living creatures, and birds to fly in the air. And he creates cattle, and creatures of every kind, and he called each and every one of these things good. Yet, on the sixth day, the day that God creates human beings the pattern slightly changes. For starters, he gives humanity a distinction that he has not given to anything else – very goodness. Unlike everything else that God created, humanity is not only good but very good. Secondly, after creating humanity, God rests from this work meaning that he was done, and that all that was to be created has been, and is perfect and is good.

So that is what humanity represents. Perfection. Completion. Very goodness. And in that state we enjoyed a perfect relationship with God. We talked with him freely, uninhabited and unashamed because there was not anything that suggested that we should ever hide ourselves from him. But we also enjoyed a fulfilling relationship with one another. We were not afraid of someone else inadequacies, shortcomings, background, gender, or ethnicity because we were first and foremost complete in God. We were able to be our real, authentic selves with one another, to the point that Adam and Eve were able to be naked with one another and feel absolutely no shame.

Yet something happened that smeared our perfection, that corrupted our goodness. We fell out of relationship with God. We believed a lie, that we could some how achieve God-ness if we were to do the very thing that God instructed us not to do. In Genesis 2, God clearly tells Adam that he is not to eat from the tree of forbidden fruit or he would die. But Adam and Eve not only eat the fruit, but they believe that in doing so that they will attain this wisdom that they had not previously known. And although they attain it, it is not what they have in mind. Now, as a result of the fruit, they know what it is to live and be in sin. They know what it is to be far away from God, to the point that they hid themselves from him because they knew that he would be disappointed. And they know what it is like to be far from one another, and to be ashamed of one another as well as themselves. What else could make a husband and wife feel the need to cover and veil the most intimate part of who they were?

Not only did Adam and Eve cover their body parts, they also covered their hearts. They knew that there was something wrong but for them, the best way to address it was by blaming the other. First, Adam blamed Eve for making him eat the fruit, and subsequently, Eve blamed the serpent who deceived her. Neither one took responsibility for their own actions, for their own shortcomings, yet both of them, and all of humanity with them has now lost out on what it means to be good, what it means to be complete.

Immediately after this episode, we come upon Genesis 4, where we witness the first murder. Cain, feeling inadequate and ashamed out of his own failure to identify his sin and fix it, lashes out at Abel who had nothing to do with Cain’s shame or inability to measure up. Abel, just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was a clear representation of all that Cain was not. This did not happen between two people who were from two different mothers, or even two different nationalities. In fact, they were brothers.

In Genesis 9, we encounter Noah. Noah was a righteous man who God spared along with his family from the flood. Yet after the flood, Noah gets himself drunk and naked, and his son Ham uncovers this. Rather than admitting his failure for getting himself in this predicament in the first place, Noah takes his frustration out on Ham, his own son, and Canaan, his grandson, saying that their family would be in perpetual servitude.

Then we come upon Genesis 16. Sarai and Hagar. This is some deep stuff. Abram (later Abraham) and Sarai (later Sarah) have been trying to get pregnant for years even though God has promised them a son. After seeing no sign of a son, and only old age, Sarai suggests that Abram sleep with her handmaid to perhaps bear a son through her, which in and of itself is a horrible thing. Yet, when it works, Sarai takes it out on Hagar. She starts to blame Hagar for her troubles, forgetting all the while that Hagar has nothing to do with her barrenness and inability to conceive a child. But she is an easy target, and so the blame, the hatred, and the oppression continue until one day, God removes both Hagar and her son Ishmael from the oppressive environment.

And we have only covered the first 16 chapters of the biblical text. Yet if we continue, we will find that this pattern of hatred, oppression, exploitation, murder, blame and shame also continues down through the text. What we will often find is that this pattern is not always wrapped up in ethnocentrism, racism, or sexism. Sometimes it is just wrapped up in the fact that wherever two people exist, at least one of them will find a way to divide and conquer the other one simply because they are unfulfilled and unsatisfied with their own selves.

But we must remember that we did not start this way. We started off being very good. We started off being complete and perfect and whole in God. How do we get back there? Not only for the sake of those that we slight in one way or another, but also for our own sakes. We cannot continue going around pitting ourselves against others because of our own deep seeded insecurities. We cannot keep blaming the Democrats, Republicans, blacks, whites, women, men, Muslims, homosexuals, Christians, Jews, rich, poor, or anybody else for the way that we feel about ourselves. It is time that we claim the responsibility that Adam and Eve pushed off on themselves and own up to our deep rooted issues.

I would suggest that this work starts at the Cross of Christ. I am not trying to be overly simplistic, I just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is where it has to start. If the root of our problem has to do with us not being in proper relationship with God, then that is where we have to start to do work in order to reclaim our very goodness. You see, in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a way was made for us to enter back into creation with God. The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5 calls this creation a new creation in that all of the mess, shame, and sin that we were accustomed to has passed away and we have become completely new.

It is out of this renewed relationship with God that we are able to begin to deal with our inadequacies and become who we were always meant to be. It does not happen over night, but as we consciously and consistently meditate on the Word of God, we begin to change. We begin to feel so complete, so full in Christ that there is no longer any need to dump all over someone else. We begin to become whole and functioning human beings that we no longer feel the need to divide, conquer and oppress someone else just because they threaten who we are. In fact, we are no longer threatened.

I am a huge social justice advocate and enthusiast. I believe that there are systems in our world, such as racism, classim, and sexism, that keep people in power in power and that also only reinforce the stereotypes of the poor colored masses so that they stay out of power. But for me, this is not the issue. Yes they are things that need to be addressed so that systems and situations will change, but it only gets at a part of the problem. The problem is a human problem, a worldwide problem, centering around who we are as individuals. It is only until we are willing to do work around that, and reclaim the goodness that we lost, that the work around social justice even has a chance.

The How

Nine months or so, I started a series called The Who, The What, The Why and the How. It is about inviting all persons, regardless of race, nationality, economic status, or religion even, to the communion table of the Lord, or rather into relationship with God. It is a three part series and was all written and ready to go. But then I went into labor, gave birth to our daughter (who is nine months old today), and got side tracked along the way. And so, I am here to finish what I started. I hope that the conclusion to this series will not only be intriguing and informative, but that it will inspire us all to remove the things that divide us and that perpetuate injustice, so that all can come to the table of the Lord. Enjoy!

The How

I realize that in saying that love is what is required that I must further explain myself. This is what I term The How and reflect on how we as believers are supposed to love one another as well as others in the way that Jesus did. I am not talking about the emotional, touchy feely type of love that is based more on how one feels at the moment. This emotional type of love is good and it is necessary, but it will not enable us to effectively love others who are unlike us. This emotional type of love will not cause us to invite people to the communion table of the Lord. In the slight chance that it does, it has more to do with whether or not the person conforms and assimilates to our own ideas and expectations of who they should be rather than who God already says they are. Instead, I am speaking of the sacrificial type of love, the type of love that motivates us to act on behalf of those who are despondent and hurting. This is the type of love that Jesus displayed throughout his ministry and Luke 4.18, 19 illustrates this perfectly saying:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.

Jesus realized that it was going to take more than his preaching to bring people into the kingdom of God. He knew that the people that he would minister to had some serious needs and were need of repair. Without him touching those people with his actions, he knew that they would be lost. In my mind, this is why he spent time with those who were social outcasts such as prostitutes, tax collectors, adulterers, and sinners. This is why he ministered to and comforted those who were lepers, those who were blind, and those who could not walk. And this is why he ultimately went to the cross, to undo the profound impact of sin on humankind. In this sacrifice, He truly set free all who were held captive and oppressed!

In my opinion, this passage does not just apply to Jesus but it applies to everyone who names his name in that God has also called us to set the oppressed free. Yet what does this look like in our own time and in our own context? Once again, I turn to the Epistles to see what the Apostle Paul has to say in this regard.

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3.27, 28, NASB).

“Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity
” (Ephesians 2.12-16, NASB).

As I examine both of these passages, I see that the blood of Christ has done something really profound. Not only has the shedding of his blood reconciled us to God, but it has also provided a means in which we can be reconciled to one another. No longer is there any distinction between Jew or Palestinian, Black or White, Hutu or Tutsi, slave or free, male or female and even Republican or Democrat. This means that God sees us all equally and responds to us in like manner, so that we should also treat one another in the same light. We do this by constantly tearing the walls of division and we do this by declaring to the world that we will no longer idly stand for the ill treatment of any one people group for the benefit of another.

When we do such, we proclaim that the communion table is an open invitation to all. I believe that Christ himself made such possible so that all would come. It is not His desire that anyone would perish on account of their sins but that all would enter into the abundance of eternal life with him. Yet once again, it bears repeating that the only way people can enjoy eternal life is through the blood of Christ. The blood that He shed must be applied to their hearts so that when the angel of death comes, and for every person this angel does come, they will not be swallowed up by the second death.

With this, I believe that it is also important to look at the totality of our actions and how we respond to people in general. In Ephesians 4 and 5, the Apostle Paul challenges the new believers to be careful of how they walk or how they live now that they are in Christ:

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil and opportunity…let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you…be imitators of God…and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 4.25-27, 31-5.2, NASB).

We do not often realize how much our actions and words affect other people. Perhaps this has a lot to do with the fact that we do not care how others are affected just as long as our needs and wants are placated. Yet, this passage tells us that such a mindset is not only incorrect but gives the devil an opportunity to steal, kill and destroy our lives as well as the lives of those around us. We need to begin to conform our actions and our thoughts to a higher standard who is Christ. We need to desist from defrauding one another and when we are taken advantage ourselves, we have to let go of bitterness and hatred, and instead forgive. We ultimately need to begin to emulate God himself, becoming a people characterized by nothing less than love.

Next time you come to the communion table, I encourage you to remember these things. As you eat of the bread and drink of the cup, remember that this privilege is not for you and you alone but extends to all who are willing to call upon the name of Jesus and be saved. How might your actions be drawing people into the kingdom of God and of His Son Jesus or how might they be hindering people from coming near? Are you tearing down the calls of racism, classism, and sexism or are you building them up as a result of your own prejudice and misunderstanding of all that Christ has accomplished on your behalf? Are you divisive and bitter? Or are you loving and accepting, urging all to come, to eat, to be transformed, to be saved? As you reflect on these questions, it is my prayer that you, that we will begin to live in such a way that unbelievers are no longer discouraged by the misdeeds of the Church and will begin to come one by one, joining in with us as we together remember that it is because of Christ that we all have an opportunity to eat.

To read previous posts –
The Who, The What, The Why and the How
The What and the Why