Timid and scared, I exhaled nervously searching for Angela. How could a girl like me, party animal, tattooed and whale-taled ever find herself setting foot on holy ground? Going to church? My eyes scanned the morning crowd, all seemingly connected, waving hello, sipping coffee, getting donuts. Music with base was thumping when one look caught my eye. The woman sized me up in a matter of seconds and discarded me to the curb. Feeling like the garbage she tossed, I wanted to run.
Shamed and rejected, I turned to leave when Angela found me, her warm smile and hug kept me from slipping out the door.
Her friendship was my lifeline to Christ, she loved me where I was at, and it was enough to push me towards a relationship with Christ. Now days, I’m well known at church, still tattooed but with bright blond- streaked red hair, wearing a headset and directing the lights and audio of worship… all because Angela chose to love me. Period.
And now my husband and I say it constantly, “Love them where they are at,” we have friends who are atheists, some who are angry with God, and still others who follow a religion that doesn’t involve the God of the Bible. We have other friends who are living alternative lifestyles or have made colossal mistakes; but when people question why we include them as friends, it is because Chris and I remember what it was like to be in their shoes.
“How do we dare say we know better than God who is worthy of love and who isn’t?” (P.190)
And if you want to know what I think of Rudy’s book, I think it is spot on. In a world that doesn’t want Christians at the Table, Rudy presents Christ’s authentic and amazing love in a way where we don’t need to jockey for a seat. Instead, we set aside our differences, our doctrines, our carefully laid arrangements and simply take a seat outside the Table and we love. Soon others will stop pushing and look at us, where we can then lay aside our differences, our sins, our righteousness and look at each other through the eyes of Christ.
Who is Rudy?
Rudy Rasmus is a pastor, author, and global humanitarian with a passion for outreach to the world’s poorest citizens. He often says his primary spiritual gift is “hanging out.”
From his previous life of owning and operating a “borderline bordello,” today Pastor Rudy co-pastors the St. John’s United Methodist Church located in Downtown Houston with his wife Juanita that began with 9 existing members in 1992. St. John’s has grown to over 9,000 members (30% were formerly homeless) in 21 years into one of the most culturally diverse congregations in the country where every week people of every social and economic background and ethnicity share the same pew. He attributes the success of the church to a compassionate group of people who have embraced the vision of tearing down the walls of classism, sexism, and racism and building bridges of unconditional love, universal recovery, and unprecedented hope. A recent in-house poll revealed the number one reason people attend St. John’s is because they can “feel the love” from the parking lot to the pew. For more about him, visit: http://www.pastorrudy.net/
And lucky for you, if you are interested in a copy, simply leave a comment below to enter into a drawing for a free copy of his book from me to you, you can also click here for a link to his book on Amazon. Before you leave, here is an interview with Rudy about his book.
Interview with Rudy
- You believe that loving without condition means loving regardless of race, class, gender, orientation, or past deeds. How would you respond to someone who says he can’t love someone who he believes is making sinful lifestyle choices?
Sinful is a big word with many implications and interpretations based on the cultural context. I define sin as “anything that separates a person from their creator and prohibits that person from fulfilling their God ordained purpose.” With this definition in mind, to determine another person’s “sinful lifestyle choice” is a subjective experience based on how the person interprets the word “sin.”
To begin with, I carefully separate a person’s race, class, gender, or orientation from a person’s conscious deeds which are more connected to a person’s character defined by the way a person thinks, feels or responds. The task of every person in the human family is to respect “the other’s” place in the world rather than assuming agreement is necessary for love to be present.
- How have you seen love break down walls of classism, sexism, and racism in your own city of Houston?
Achieving racial equality has been a long journey in Houston and the rest of the American South. I drank from a separate water fountain until I was 11 years old in Houston but today it is one of the most diverse cities in the United States.
If the mandate of love is to “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” then Houston is proving everyday that it is a place where people of every class, station, or orientation have a place to call home. This is a reminder that love ultimately accomplishes what legislation can’t.
- You write that there is a big difference between loving our neighbor as ourselves and loving the neighborhood. What do you mean by that?
I don’t believe you can truly extend love to broader cultural context before you can perfect loving the person in front of you at this very moment. If I want to know how you interpret love, I can look for your fruit as a determinant. The love Jesus talked about is not preferential love based on a pre-existing qualification process, but its love in the same way that God loves us and out of this love we are to love “the neighbor.” I am making the assumption “the neighbor” is a sociological parameter and not a geographic determination makes everyone on the planet our neighbor whether we like, agree, or approve of their life expression or not. The greatest commandment was to love God (through sacrifice), love others (through service), and to love self (through self-respect).
- What is the connection between vulnerability and love?
Madeleine L’Engle once wrote, “When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
The major obstacle in today’s world prohibiting the sharing of love is scarcity, inadequacy, and insecurity. In other words, not feeling as though I have enough; not feeling I can do enough; and not feeling I am enough. There is a proverb that goes, “The person who doesn’t know what enough is, will never have enough.” Scarcity is rampant in shame-prone, materialistic, competitive societies, which are overly focused on lack.
Love requires a generous heart, free of fear, and a willingness to be vulnerable.
In Love. Period. I wrote, “Love liberates us so we can walk fully in the truth of God’s love, and reach out to others with great vulnerability, in order to engage others in a relationship that brings honor to God.”
To enter into a drawing for a copy of this book, simply leave a comment below and the winner will be announced on this post.
And the winner is Rebecca Smith. Thank you all for commenting and chatting!