I’ve just read about a grandma who is so upset about a group home for the disabled being located next door to her that she has put signs in her yard saying that the next-door residents are sex offenders whom everyone should be afraid of. (She did this because it’s possible for someone charged with a sex crime and incompetent to stand trial to be placed in a group home. She has been informed that none of these residents fit this category.) Because she has enlisted the neighbors in this bitter fight, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is investigating her for discrimination. The result: this otherwise nice grandma can’t sleep at night and the group home residents are driven to tears and afraid to go outside because, in their experience, people who don’t like them often hit them.
If I were the judge, I would not take sides but I would render this judgment: Nice grandma and two other neighbors must take one of the group-residents out to eat once a week. (McDonald’s is fine). The first few times a group-home attendant may come along. Nice grandma and neighbors should ask questions and be friendly. If group-home residents do not respond, nice grandma and neighbors can bring a simple game along to play. (Maybe Uno would work.)
Reason # 1: When people talk, eat and play together, they are often surprised that their “enemies” are such normal, delightful people. (That’s why I’d like to see anti-gay protestors and gay-rights advocates sit down together, eat together and play a favorite game together.) I’m not asking people to change their minds (although that often happens), just that they allow their hearts to be changed toward individuals.
Reason # 2: Jesus didn’t always take sides but instead spoke to the needs of each person involved. When the Pharisees and teachers of the law brought him the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11), he met these leaders’ needs by telling them to go ahead and stone her if their consciences would let them. That forced them to look at themselves in silence as Jesus occupied himself writing on the ground. Jesus met the woman’s needs by offering her forgiveness and inviting her to a new way of life. In a controversial situation, the question is often, How can I love people and speak to their needs? instead of, Which side should I take?
“we regard no one from a human point of view . . . God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was. . . entrusting the message of reconciliation to us” (2 Cor. 5:16, 18-19).
Grace and peace,
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