“Us” and “Them”

Luke’s genealogy of the Christ starts with Jesus, son of Joseph, and works its way all the way back to Adam. It ends with these words: “…son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”

In what sense was Adam the “son of God?” I do not know all of the ways in which that question cab be appropriately answered, but I know one thing: our children tend to resemble us, and Adam resembled God. Scripture says that when God made Adam He said “let us make Adam in our image,” or “in our likeness,” or, in some sense, “to look like US.”

Of course in Hebrew, Adam literally means “mankind,” and this is no coincidence. Just as Adam is a child of God, and thus “looks like” God, so all of mankind are children of God, who look like Him.

Plenty of other scriptures reaffirm this. Paul said of his prayer life: “I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” So in some sense, not only are we His children who resemble Him, but we also have His name, just as it is customary even to this day for a person’s children to bear their name. In His sermon on Mars Hill Paul proclaimed that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth… for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’”

Now when we get into trouble, who do we turn to to bail us out? Often, it is our family. This is the way it has been for millennia. In the book of Ruth, for instance, Boaz redeemed the household of Naomi because He was one of their closest relatives. In fact, in Hebrew, the word for “redeemer” and “close relative” is the exact same word.

No wonder then, that God Himself ended up being our redeemer, for ultimately there was no one else in the family who could help us with our sin problem. We were slaves to sin as Romans teaches, and slaves to the law, as we read in Galatians 4:5, and as the law in the Pentetuech lays out, a man needs one of his kinsmen to pay out the redemption money before he can go free. We might have hoped for a fellow human being to help us out, but the Revelation to John tells us that they searched through heaven, and found no one who was worthy except the Lamb. He was our closest and only kinsman who could bail us out.

Thus we are told by Matthew and Mark that the Son of Man (a title of Jesus that really emphasizes His kinship to us) came to give His life as a ransom for many.

So what do we learn from all of this? Well, we learn that there is no “us” vs. “them” when it comes to the worth of the various peoples on the earth. Yes, we have different skin colors, and we speak different dialects and different languages, and we have different customs and traditions and heritages and strengths and weaknesses. And there is no need to hide these facts. Rather, I think we should celebrate them. But when it comes to whose family is better than whose, there is only one family. We are all sons of Adam, sons of God. We all look like Him. We all carry His name.

Maybe sometimes those in power want to divide us into groups, and foster hate between us in order to make us easier to control. Or maybe sometimes it has little or nothing to do with those in power, and it starts at the bottom and works its way up because we, as humans, are distrustful of those who are not like us, or who we perceive as a threat to our own way of life. But when it comes to human worth, there is no “us” and “them.”

There is, however, a very important “us” and “them” that does need to be addressed. It is the “us” who accept Him as our redeemer and the “them” that reject His sacrifice in favor of some other god. It might sound discriminatory, but truly, there is a group that is special in His eyes. He calls them “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.”

This special people is his church. And while many today perceive His church as being bigoted precisely because they perceive it as an elitist group who think they are better than others and exclude those who are different from them, the truth is that the requirements for entry still leave room for quite a bit of diversity.

You do not have to be any certain color. You do not have to speak any certain language or live in any certain country or belong to any certain political party. You do not have to be attracted to people of the opposite gender. You do not have to be in a certain income bracket. You do not have to meet a minimum requirement for good deeds done per week. You do not have to have a clean criminal record.

You do have to trust and obey.

Matthew 25 describes a scene in which God “separates the sheep from the goats.” There will be “sheep” and “goats.” There will be an “us” and a “them.” Both “us” and “them” will have “red,” “yellow,” “black,” “brown,” and “white,” rich and poor, old and young, men and women among our numbers. Both “us” and “them” will have those who had our own struggles with alcohol, drugs, sexual immorality, and a host of other problems. But “we” will be faithful to Him wherever He leads, while “they” will turn their backs on Him when the right idol comes along.

This is the only “us” and “them” that will matter in the end.

I will stand with you in this life. But when judgment day comes, there will be a separation. On that day, will you be one of us, or one of them?

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God Help Us

“But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25)

Jesus did not need anyone to tell Him that mankind is broken. He did not need anyone to tell Him that we are fickle. That we are so very inclined to put ourselves first and others second. Or that we have a problem with God telling us what to do. Or that we have spent thousands of years killing, hurting, neglecting, ignoring, and cheating our selves and each other in the names of God, country, tribe, clan, race, political party, and most of all, in the name of self.

Jesus did not need anyone to tell Him how rotten we all are. I am not saying anything that is any more shocking or negative than the Holy Spirit said in Romans, chapter 3:

“THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.
THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE,
WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING, THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS;
WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS;
THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.
THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”

From the obvious, violent crimes such as physical assault and murder, to the subtle effects of indifference and self-centeredness, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

I say all this to emphasize one simple point: we must look up. We must listen to the God who is above us; submitting to His instructions. We must “humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord,”(James 4:10). We must accept His boundless, scandalous grace (Ephesians 2:8-9), and then we must walk in His light (1 John 1:7). We must continually rededicate ourselves to His service (Romans 12:1-2).

We cannot intellectualize ourselves out of wickedness in the academy. We cannot legislate ourselves out of wickedness on Capitol Hill. We cannot bomb ourselves out of wickedness on a battlefield. We cannot lock up all of the wicked people in a jail somewhere. We cannot spend our way out of wickedness at the mall. We cannot diet our way, or entertain our way, or sanitize our way out of wickedness in our homes.   For that matter we cannot even discipline our way out of our own wickedness if we will not look up.

Man cannot help us.

God, help us.

Stripping Off Every Weight

The first couple of verses of Hebrews chapter 12 give this instruction:

Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.

The New Living Translation actually says: “let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.”

Having been a casual cyclist for several years, I have definitely become familiar with the idea of diminishing weight in order to gain efficiency. For a serious cyclist, unnecessary parts such as kickstands or baskets are immediately out of the question because of the weight that they add to the bicycle. Most will also immediately remove reflectors from a new bike if it comes with them. Some cyclists have even been known to peel the stickers off of their bikes in order to trim every last unnecessary gram.

The quest for efficiency does not end there. Road bikers where skintight clothing, and often shave their legs. They use extremely skinny tires with extremely high air pressure in them.

The women’s track pursuit bike for the Olympics this year has the drivetrain on the left side of the bike, instead of the traditional location on the right. This is to reduce wind resistance since the bike will only be making left turns. I could go on, but you get the picture.

If humans are capable of such intense attention to detail in athletics, are we not also capable of seeking that kind of perfection in spiritual things? Have you removed as many unnecessary encumbrances as you can from your spiritual life?

Susanna Wesley once wrote these words to her son: “Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.”

Her definition of sin is thought provoking because it reminds us that spiritual encumbrances may not always appear to be obviously wicked, but they may effect us negatively nonetheless.

What television shows could we give up, or what habits of thinking could we alter, or what quiet whisper of the conscience could we listen to more earnestly, in order that we might run with endurance the race set before us?

As any professional athlete can tell you, even the smallest changes could make a big difference.