As I Am by Tamasha Tennant
I used to live in Charlotte, NC, and while I lived there, I attended MCC – a non-denominational church that was very open and accepting of everyone. I hadn’t belonged to a church in many years, and it was a unique experience to worship in a place where I could be myself.
One year as we prepared for Charlotte Pride, we started having protestors show up at our services. It was the typical “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” thing. It was normally only 3 or 4 folks at a time, but as Pride drew nearer, the number of protestors also grew.
I was furious in the way that a super-independent-except-when-I-was-homesick-20-something could be. I remember driving through the crowd that was blocking the parking lot entrance, a little faster than I should, and screeching my tires as I parked. I huffed through the church doors and found Pastor Mick and ask him what we were going to do about “those ignorance baffoons outside”?! He said, “I’ve got it covered.”
Pastor Mick had picked up doughnuts and coffee on his way to church that morning. When he entered the sanctuary, me puffing at his heels, he explained to everyone that we would serve the protestors that morning. It was unseasonably cool, overcast, and slightly raining, so we were going to take them coffee and doughnuts. But first, we were going to pray for them. “Why?!!!” I demanded.
Pastor Mick asked me, “Do you know what Jesus offered Judas to eat at The Last Supper?” I thought about it, but I didn’t know the answer. He said, “He served Judas exactly the same thing he served the others.”
Open mouth; insert foot. Yep. That was a tough pill to swallow. Indiscriminate love. Actually, literally, loving thy enemies and praying for those goofs was hard. Damn hard. And I did it reluctantly. I stomped as I carried the doughnuts. I was secretly glad that the coffee was no longer piping hot. I kinda wished it would really start raining hard and that incredible gusts of wind would overturn their tables and blow away their signs and that they’d all start running wildly, like a scene from “The Birds”.
We came back inside and went ahead with service as usual. We took communion, and as I ate my wafer and drank my grape juice I couldn’t help but recognize that there I was, taking communion, minutes after I’d wished mayhem and probable harm upon a group of people I could see out the window but didn’t even know.
The call to “be perfect, therefore, as God is perfect”, in my mind, doesn’t actually mean that we need to be PERFECT in all aspects of life. It’s not the “perfection” that we all think of – the unattainable pinnacle of sinless living with a heart of gold. If you actually look up the word “perfect” in the dictionary, it is defined as “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.” Now, that’s funny. The very definition of perfection hints that there is an element of reality to consider – as good as POSSIBLE.
Because of that, I think this passage and this translation of “perfect” really applies only to love. That’s possible, right? For us to love perfectly? For our sense of love to be whole, and not lacking or tainted in any way. Ok, now that’s something I think I can work towards. When I think of God as my heavenly parent, I can’t help but think of the way I love my own children. Sure, they upset me. They make choices that are foolish and harmful and ridiculous. And none of that matters when it comes to how much I love those little humans and I pray for them daily. And I know that God loves me that way, too, to the Nth degree. So, He wants me to love all these other people He’s created. All (gulp!) of them. It’s a work in progress.
As am I.
(Still unsure about the coffee and doughnuts, though.)
Matthew 5: 43-48
‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as God is perfect.