Unhelpful Categories

For most of this week’s writings and readings, we are going to talk about seeing the world and the people of the world through the eyes of Jesus.

On most occasions, most of us don’t like to be pegged in a category with all the attendant stereotypes that come with most any association, even good things. For example, if you had the academic credentials to go to and graduate from an Ivy League school like, say, Princeton, that would be a nice resume enhancement; but along with it might come some negative expectation that you were therefore a preppie, snooty and elitist personality. When I lived in New Jersey and followed the local professional baseball team on local TV (before the days when you could stream anything), I didn’t like the association of being a Philadelphia sports fan – you know, the crazies who booed Santa Claus off the field!

When we look at other people groups, we need to be careful to not assume that some negative characteristics of a number of folks within that category necessarily define even a small majority of the rest of the folks. The bad apples of any group are those who make the news and cast a cloud over all the rest. You can imagine what I think about prosperity gospel TV preachers and the bad reputation some people ascribe to all pastors because of them! When I start selling miracle prayer cloths for a large price and profit, you can throw me in with those guys. Otherwise, I don’t think I have a great deal in common with them other than being a “preacher” (which is honestly a term I don’t like very much).

If we are going to look across the tracks and beyond ourselves and our own majority people group, we need to leave stereotypical assumptions and presumptions behind. The vast majority of Hispanic people are not connected to gangs and illegal immigration. Neither are the majority of African-Americans involved in crime, drug dealing and street violence. Most of both groups desire to have self-supporting careers and happy families, as do most Caucasian people.

And it can go the other way. At a recent pastors gathering on the topic of race relations and working toward growing multi-cultural church communities, an African-American pastor very vehemently asserted that we white evangelicals wouldn’t give Obama a break, simply because he was black. I really chaffed at that, because I could care less what color a president is; it was the man’s policies that most often put me on the other side of the fence from his views. I did not like getting pegged as from a group where I had no connection whatsoever.

Years ago when a college student in Philadelphia, a friend and I were taking a public transit bus out to the edge of the city near where he lived. The bus went through a wide variety of neighborhoods. At one point a group of young, black men got on, and my friend and I were the only whites on the bus. These guys began to grab us and push us around rather violently, along with all sorts of names and threats. The driver and the rest of the people on the bus were as scared of the gang as we were. We did not retaliate, for that would have been futile, and after a while they got off the bus. It would be wrong of me to impute the wrong-doing of that group onto all African-Americans I have met over the past 40+ years since that incident.

If anyone ever had a justifiable reason to impute anger toward a group of people, it would be Jesus Christ. After all, the sins of every other human were the reason he would go to the cross and suffer and die! Yet Jesus is the one person with the most gracious attitude that we have ever seen toward others. Instead of imputing anger toward mankind, he instead offers the imputation of his righteousness that we may be saved. We then become agents of reconciliation of this truth to those who have yet to receive it (2 Corinthians 5).

So we need to see the world and others through the eyes of Jesus. There are really two groups of people in the world, and it has NOTHING to do with the things that we categorize people by race or socio-economics, culture or whatever. The groups are:

  1. Sinners unredeemed and under the death curse of sin.
  2. Sinners redeemed by Christ from the death curse of sin.

There is the common denominator of sin. Yet there is also another common denominator available – redemption by the work of Christ, the result being that we are one new family in him, regardless of our human designations and categorizations.

So this week we want to talk about the view through the eyes of Jesus … like this account …

Luke 9:35 – Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

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This entry was posted in Other Side of the Tracks by Randy Buchman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed 3-4 hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and am the editor of a Baltimore/Maryland sports blog called "The Baltimore Wire." My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with a Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

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