A couple of weeks ago Greg preached on the fact that if you’re going to love people, you have to lose labels. In the time since then, that message has stuck with him and he felt the pull to continue to preach in that direction. The brain needs repetition to really get something, and this is so foundational to the kingdom that it is worth preaching again. It can make such a massive difference in how you view yourself and others. And the world is so opposite of this, that without repetition we become complacent, so we need to hear this again and again.
If you want to love people the way God loves, you have to lose labels.
We start by reading Matthew 21:7-11.
They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
For the people, this was all about deliverance. They were longing for the messiah, who they had imagined would free them from the cruel, heavy rule of the Romans. They acknowledged that Jesus seemed to have supernatural powers, and he spoke with a kind of authority that people had not seen before. These things convinced people that he might really be the messiah they had been waiting for. So when he rode into town on a donkey like the prophecy, the people cried out “Hosannah!” It means “Deliver us.” But it’s like a prayer of gratitude ahead of time. He is coming to deliver us. They wanted Israel to be restored to where it was under king David. So they put branches on the ground – this was a sign of anticipated victory.
But Jesus also had some quirks that did not fit the bill — for one, he kept preaching to love your enemies. Praised faith of a non-religious centurion pagan, and he hung out with sinners. None if this was what messiah supposed to do. The messiah is supposed to trample our enemies, be super-religious and only hobnob with the holiest of the holy. And, more than anything, the messiah was NOT supposed to get arrested.
So, a week later, this same crowd is saying something very different. Pilot asked the crowds who to release, and they chose the other, saying about Jesus “Crucify him!” Mark 15:12-13.
Why? What changed is that he got arrested and that is not what a messiah is supposed to do. They had poured all their hopes into him, and they felt beyond let down, they felt betrayed. If he’s not going to use his power to help himself then he certainly won’t use it to help them, so what kind of messiah is he? Just kill him.
Jesus was not the kind of Messiah anyone was looking for. The religion of the time (and arguably what we continue to do today) was to Make God in our own image to do our bidding. We believe that our god is more powerful than other gods, and will protect us, give us some of his power, so that we can crush our enemies. People think fighting for God and country is a uniquely American thing, but is the oldest motivation in the book!
This is why in Psalm 50:21 the writer quotes God as saying, “These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself.”
We assume God is just like us. Our self-righteous brain so loves to be right, we assume God agrees with us and is just like us. It’s the same old Us Vs. Them polarity that the world revolves around. We do this as part of establishing our identity — because as they say, in every “you are” there is an “I am.” We use slogans and banners and flags to rally people together around a common cause which is almost always against a common enemy. In fact sociologists say it’s part of the very definition of a group — there can’t be a group with out having another group to be against.
Well Jesus is here to prove them wrong! There is no Them, there is just US.
This is why Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 —
“For the love of Christ compels us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
What he is talking about is removing labels of Us vs. Them and Better vs. Worse. From now on, we shall regard no one from a human point of view, where we let our five senses or social strata or physical form define reality. From now on we look at everyone in a new way, because everything has passed away everything IS new! The cross has changed everything for everybody.
The kingdom is an “us” without a “them”!
And from God’s perspective, everybody is in. (Romans 5:18) Our call is to see everything and everyone from the lens of the cross. To die to our fallen mind always judging and comparing and contrasting and measuring — these behaviors are antithetical to the kingdom. When you learn how to catch your mind doing it, and reverse course, this is where we begin to change. We start to see people as worth dying for, as insiders.
For the second part of his sermon, Greg invited up Dan Cashman from the TAP, which stands for Tapping All Possibilities. It’s a ministry where people of ALL different abilities come together to hang out, play games, dance, sing karaoke, and just generally have a good time. This group demonstrates what it means to get rid of labels, and the profound effect this has for people.
The #1 problem of people with disabilities is a lack of social inclusion. This can be deadly, people suffer from suicide, depression, addiction and worse. But being freed from these labels and being accepted can be the most healing experience for people.
You don’t even realize how many judgements and labels you have for yourself and others until you go to one of these parties and are free from them. This is why Jesus said when you have a party don’t just invite your friends, invite people you don’t know.
Removing these labels saves lives. Dan shared a couple of stories from people that attend the TAP — Like Paul. He was an alcoholic, and had anxiety, depression, and debilitating agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) to the point that Paul spent most of his time living in a closet. The first time he came to TAP he only stayed 10 minutes. The next time he stayed longer, and eventually he opened up more and more, and now he plays Santa every Christmas and leads the Better Together recovery group at the Refuge on Thursdays.
Another example Greg gave was his own son, who has the label of “high functioning autism” and with this, he suffers from terrible social anxiety. He went to TAP a couple times and before long he got up there singing karaoke! This was nothing short of a miracle.
At TAP we get to see the beauty of a person without fear, expressing who they are freely. Jesus describes the kingdom as a party, where everyone is welcome and everyone is free — and it must look something kind of like this.
If you want to join in the kingdom-looking party with TAP, you can join us at Woodland Hills on Monday nights 6-9PM, attend one of the monthly “Friday night dance parties” or go to http://yourtap.org.
If you want to love like God loves, the first thing you have to do is remove labels. There is no “normal” or “special” or “us” or “them” — there is simply a FREE person who is loved! God’s love does not pick and choose, it comes in the way the sun shines or like the rain falls, like a blanket on ALL.
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