Sit Down for Jesus!

I’ve always been a fairly average scholar…wasn’t astounding at school but got what I needed.  Wasn’t a straight A essay writer or exam sitter at Bible College but more a B average.  One thing that sticks with me from Standard Grade (GCSE level) History is a sentence that was drummed into us for the exam on the causes of the first world war:  we had to learn several of the ‘repercussions of the annexation of Bosnia and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.’  Now, please don’t ask me to tell you what the repercussions were, all I know is that we had to learn em!

That random piece of information comes to my mind regularly, its hardwired in there, and it did again this evening.  The context was a simple observation of a few friends on facebook and a few conversations in recent weeks, I suppose.  Here is the thing:  I’m totally sick of the shunning culture of Christianity.  The way that people feel they can annex people off because of some fault, failure, ‘sin’, or even if they don’t fit the right package or tick the right boxes for your particular set of theological ducks.

Now don’t get me wrong, its not that I haven’t done it.  I just hope that I’ve repented for enough of it that its no longer a way of thinking that I own. I’ve also been, and currently am, the subject of it from some quarters.  When I hear it or see it these days it just makes me so sad…writing people off because of certain things about them.  Spiritual judgements flying about a persons soundness or lack thereof.  A cruel Phariseeism that is passing for spiritual eliteness, hyper spirituality or super-smug Christian tribalism not worrying about who gets hurt on the way so long as ‘my version of truth’ gets preserved along the way.

The root of this is dualism.  Black and white thinking.  Thinking that is always rushing to judgement and then making assumptions about who is therefore acceptable or not acceptable.  This goes from stuff as serious of people’s sexuality all the way down to being  viewed as suspect because you let your kids read Harry Potter and all the small minded stuff in between.   This sort of stuff does lead to war, this annexation.  Cutting people off, blacking people out, stopping acknowledging people for whatever reason over their lifestyle choices, a mistake or some other thing, it leads to war and many civilian casualties.

We all have our fair share of people/situations that we find difficult, but we need to take the time to see beyond it.  Not saying its easy, its bloody hard, actually.  But its also essential.  There needs to be a seeing revealed to us, a seeing which shows us that as humans we are fundamentally the same…reliant on various shades and bucket loads of grace.

This struck me on my first main trip out the door this week after having been poorly in bed.  Went to ASDA for some healing chicken soup and just became aware in a fresh way that, beyond the appearances, each individual had a precious soul, a unique soul, looking out at the world.  You could read the pain and scars on many.  They were people, real people.

And then I got to thinking about people who get up my nose, in particular.  What was it about them that got to me?  I knew it was the same ugly duality, the same wicked judgementalism that I once saw in myself as a younger ‘Christian’, back in the days when I thought I’d arrived at a full knowledge of what was right and what was clearly not.

In honesty, I’d rather go sit in the street with the people cast out than sit in any house of pharisaical perfection these days.  Its maybe what a few years does, but I think its what I see that Jesus often sat too…I hope thats where I’m learning it from.

When I was at school, a favourite song of mine at Saturday night community centre discos was ‘Sit Down’ by James.  It speaks of a connection with the Other as brother and sister.  I remember a hall full of young people sitting on the floor…powerful memories.  Here’s the words:

I’ll sing myself to sleep
A song from the darkest hour
Secrets I can’t keep
Inside of the day
Swing from high to deep
Extremes of sweet and sour
Hope that God exists
I hope I pray

Drawn by the undertow
My life is out of control
I believe this wave will bear my weight
So let it flow

Oh sit down 
Sit down next to me 
Sit down, down, down, down, down 
In sympathy 

Now I’m relieved to hear
That you’ve been to some far out places
It’s hard to carry on
When you feel all alone
Now I’ve swung back down again
It’s worse than it was before
If I hadn’t seen such riches
I could live with being poor

Those who feel the breath of sadness
Sit down next to me
Those who find they’re touched by madness
Sit down next to me
Those who find themselves ridiculous
Sit down next to me
Love, in fear, in hate, in tears


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