The current issue of Geez magazine is all about stereotypes. What kinds of assumptions do we make about people based on gender, skin tone, age, country of origin, religious affiliation? The magazine examines all these and more. The first piece in the magazine is a list of 'Contradictions: 10 stereotypes held by one of more Geez editors.' Number 4 reads as follows, "People who regularly read the Bible are unredemptively lost to a conservative worldview that oppresses everybody, including themselves. Of course, Jesus loves them anyway." This made me chuckle and Naomi asked me what I was laughing at so I read it out loud.
I’m sure she didn’t even understand half of those words, but she said, “Really?”
So, I answered in all seriousness, “Yes, of course. Jesus loves everyone.”
She looked at me skeptically. “Does Jesus even love people with guns?”
Busted. We’ve worked pretty intentionally at talking about how guns hurt people, about how Jesus wants us to be peacemakers, about being a family that doesn't even play at or pretend to hurt or kill. I thought that we’d also talked about God’s love for everyone, even the person who hurts others or does bad things. But it seems that in all our intentionality with teaching peace, we neglected to teach about God’s forgiveness and expansive grace.
“You know that song we sing sometimes, ‘God’s love is for everybody?’” I sang the chorus. Naomi nodded. “Well, that’s what it’s about. God loves people everywhere, all over the world, no matter what they’re like. Even if they do bad things. Even people with guns. Doing a bad thing doesn’t make you a bad person – you’re still God’s child.”
Naomi was making an assumption – one that we had taught her – that people with guns are unlovable and that Jesus wants nothing to do with them. The Gospel is different than that. Peacemakers are indeed blessed, but Jesus doesn’t turn anyone away – his healing is for the daughter of a soldier as much as for the child of a temple leader. Not to say he doesn't have critiques and biases himself (see Mark 7) but his arms are open to for everyone, 'Atheist and charlatans and communists and lesbians and even old Pat Robertson, God loves us all. Catholic or Protestant, terrorist or president, everybody!' God is love.