By Rachael McClair
The Sufi mystic poet Shams-ud-din Muhammad Hafiz (c. 1320-1389) wrote:
If God invited you to a party and said,
“Everyone in the ballroom tonight will be my special Guest.”
How would you then treat them when you arrived?
And Hafiz knows there is no one in this world
who is not upon his jeweled dance floor!*
Growing up, I was taught that Jesus loves everyone. It was the first song I ever learned. My parents were quite radical in the way they embraced the teaching of Jesus which contradicted their racist upbringing, and this impacted my world-view greatly. And yet, somehow, the insidious and destructive message that we must reject who we find to be different was interwoven into the fabric of the Christian teaching I received from church. It went something like this: “Sure, Jesus talked with the ‘sinful woman’ at the well, but only to point out her sin. His close friends, his confidantes, were just like him in thought and religion. These are the safe kinds of people to be in relationship with.” The message was clear- the woman at the well was not one of “us.”
In my faith community, we intentionally bring awareness towards our propensity to create an “Us and Them” story. “Us and Them” is a way of seeing the world that makes enemies where there are none and propagates misunderstanding that leads to hatred and violence. It isn’t at all in line with Jesus’ teaching about what it means to love our neighbor, and more importantly, via the story of the Good Samaritan, WHO our neighbor really is. Last week, my co-pastor Mark Tidd reminded us that we need the Samaritans (the Thems) of the world to heal us. We need the Thems to help us to see that until our “us” includes ALL of us, we are sick and beaten indeed.
OPEN love knows, with Hafiz, that there is no one in this world who is not upon God’s jeweled dance floor.
Rachael McClair is a Co-pastor at Highlands Church Denver, which is an inclusive, progressive, evangelical church founded in 2009. She curates and presides over a collaborative, weekly communion gathering full of music, ritual, questioning and community. Rachael also contributes to the OPEN Network through collaboration and leadership.
*”If God Invited You To A Party” translated by Daniel Ladinsky