Welcome and worth
Jesus and the earliest Christians deconstructed the Impostor Syndrome before it ever got the name, and it should never have arisen in the church at all. The one place on Planet Earth where people – all people – should feel welcome is the church. Jesus’ dream kingdom was a kingdom where everyone was welcomed to the table that granted forgiveness and healing and empowerment. The Church is designed to embody the Beloved Life.
For Jesus people didn’t have to be “worthy” to be welcomed. That is, they didn’t have to pass muster with the purity police in order to sit down at table with him. They got to listen to him and to enjoy him just by sitting down. Dalit or not, male or not. Read how Mark’s second chapter describes a typical evening for Jesus:
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Because they were people, they were welcomed by Jesus. Perhaps most notably, this was so important to Jesus that he took serious heat for it. The “religulous” of his day opposed the Beloved Life but Jesus created the Beloved Life.
Jesus didn’t back down. One time he told a story, or he ushered his listeners into an imaginary world where God’s kingdom ruled, and the main character, the protagonist hero, was someone none of his contemporary Jewish teachers would have used as the hero. Furthermore, he took the standard heroes (priests and their temple helpers) and made them the villains of systemic prejudice. We call his story the Parable of the Good Samaritan and you can find in Luke’s tenth chapter. The question Jesus was asked was “Who is my neighbor?” In our terms, “Who is worthy of welcome at the table?” Jesus tells a story of a priest and levite who, after performing their lifetime dream of performing duties in the Temple in Jerusalem, were on their way home. On the road they see a body and worry that they might become impure if they touch it, so they walk by. But a stereotypical impure Samaritan sees the body and, not caring about purity, attends to it out of compassion. The answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?” is that the question is not the right question. The question is not “Who is worthy to be welcomed?” but “Whom can I welcome because he or she is worthy?” In other words, “Who is my neighbor?” is answered by “Any needy person on your path in life.” Instead of asking “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus challenges us to ask another question: “To whom can you be neighborly?” When we ask that question, we welcome others into the Beloved.Life.
There are no Dalits for Jesus.
Paul, and that sometimes surprises people today. The magna carta of
equality was penned by the apostle Paul in the third chapter of his
letter to some Christians in Galatia, which is in the center of Turkey
today: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free,
neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” One New
Testament specialist says this verse “is the most socially explosive
statement in the New Testament.”[v] Paul’s explosion
is against boundaries erected between people – the ethnic boundary, the
citizen boundary, and the gender boundary. For Paul, there were no Dalits in
the community of Jesus. Paul’s dream is the same dream Jesus had: God
is creating a society where everyone is welcome because everyone is
worthy of love. Jesus embodied the Beloved Life.
was Jesus’ brother and he erupted when he discovered that followers of
Jesus Messiah were showing prejudice against the Dalits of his
culture: the poor. Here are his heated words:
brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must
not show favoritism. Suppose someone comes into your
meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor person in
filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special
attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat
for you,” but say to the one who is poor, “You stand there” or “Sit on
the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and
become judges with evil thoughts?
Jesus, Paul, James. They totally agree that God was
forming a community where everyone was welcome.