It was 1996 and the song One of Us from Joan Osborne took over the landscape of my life for a short period of time. It was on every radio station, playing in every coffee house, and even the Axis band at Willowcreek pulled off a great cover. After that cover, one of our pastors preached on it. I remember hearing about some push back from a few elders, due to the song lyrics insinuating God might be a slob.
Before we call folks Pharisees and accuse the elders of legalism, let’s pause for a second. For those who love deeply love God, they are often the most passionate about Him being portrayed in the magnificence, glory and perfection that He is. From my experiences with some of the elders at Willowcreek, I can attest they were devout followers of Jesus and filled with a TON of grace and love. But back to the song, there are a few lyrics packed in there, however, that get me to think a little.
God isn’t one of us. He isn’t like you and me. Could he come down to earth and appear as a human? Sure, he already did about two thousand years ago. In a sense, what Joan sings has already been done, but in another sense, it’s still happening.
In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these brothers, you did it to me.”
Loving God is a pretty refreshing and beautiful thing. Loving our world and loving its people can be a train wreck. We see it every day, don’t we? This is rarely an easy calling. Folks can be a pretty rough sort. Recently, I was involved in helping a man get some issues in his life worked through, and encouraged him to find his purpose in our Lord. At one point I felt the need to be quite direct on some changes that needed to happen.
“Screw you!” he shouted back at me.
It can get pretty tough trying to love folks, especially when you have to speak some pretty tough truths. Sometimes it can pretty discouraging and can seem a little hopeless. I wonder if God has ever felt that way about me? I wonder if the angels are so done protecting me from my own stupid sins?
God has this unending and magnificent amazing grace for us, and it’s the same type of grace we should have for others. Not because we think they might be an angel in disguise, but because it’s possible your kindness and love might propel them into a personal relationship with Jesus. The best way to reflect God’s love for others is to show it back to them after they’ve shouted “Screw you!” or something like that.
Joan Osborne lets us off the hook totally, and I don’t think she should. Her idea behind the song actually doesn’t have a lot to do with God, but with how we are showing love, respect and kindness to each other. How should we be treating those in our society who are different than we are, or disagree with us? Especially during this tumultuous political season, we need to be demonstrating God’s love to those around us. It’s incredibly important to reflect God’s love to those who need it most, which is just about everyone.
When Jesus walked this earth, this is exactly what he did. When God was one of us, he loved recklessly and without prejudice. He didn’t qualify his love for those who were like him, because no one was like him. He just loved. Like a holy rolling stone.