“You ain’t no better or worse than the person next to you or the stranger who is not yet a friend.” – Guest Post by Justo Gonzalez II

I am delighted to post from Rev. Justo Gonzalez, II this remarkable reflection / retelling / revelating / re-knowing of this week’s Revised Common Lectionary passage. Justo is Pastor, Mental Health Counselor, Professionally Trained Chaplain, Life Coach, and recently the Interim Conference Minister for the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ … and a remarkable carer-of-souls and rouser-of-us-rabble whom I am honored to call friend.

Pentecost 15, September 13, 2020
“You ain’t no better or worse than the person next to you or the stranger who is not yet a friend.” Based Roman 14:1-12

1Welcome to all of us who are weak in faith. Come on admit it. I’ve had to because I’m no saint. I wish I could say that my faith was greater than those who stand atop a mountain, but I don’t know if they are there to praise God or call it the end of their lives and pain. I like to think I’m strong, but I know better. We try to be faithful and strong and some days it feels like we have met our goal. Yet, the reality is that those days are far and few in between. Let’s not get into a debate or a fuss and go after each other quarreling over your opinions or mine. How is that even helpful? It’s not and we know that, but we like to be right. Right isn’t always merciful, loving or Godly.

2 Some believe in standing firm for justice and others would rather just pray on their own. And other groups say, “Leave it alone. It’s not your problem. Keep your mouth shut. There are some who will eat anything. Life is short; let’s eat. While others cannot and will never eat animals; they have chosen to only enjoy vegetables and other natural foods.

3 Those who eat according to your will must not judge, ostracize and despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not assume their virtue based upon what they abstain from and then pass judgment on those who eat those meat; for God has welcomed and welcomes todos/as (all) of us. “You ain’t no better or worse than the person next to you or the stranger who is not yet a friend.”

4 Who are you to pass judgment on another, their beliefs, values, spiritual practices or the foods they partake in? Stop the, “I know better than you” nonsense. Yes — and I know I’m pushing you — both the ones with masks and the ones who won’t wear them. They are, even if you don’t like it, Children of their God, just like you. I’ll say it again, “You ain’t no better or worse than the person next to you or the stranger who is not yet a friend.” We will all, at times, stand and fall. Our lives are like a rollercoaster, we will raise and fall, twist and turn. We will be comfortable and uncomfortable. And we will be upheld, for our Sovereign, our God, known to us in many ways and names who journeys alongside will make sure we all stand. God’s got our backs.

5 Some of us judge today to be better than our yesterdays, while others of us conclude that all days are alike. We are gifted with many opinions. Let us not simply decide that our beliefs, values, customs, understanding are “right” or the “Godly way” as that says more about you than you think you’re saying. Ok, let’s stop being nice. When we are so full of ourselves, we can’t see our own bias and the violations on others that we perpetrate. It’s ok to believe what you believe. It’s not ok and never has been to try to impose it on others. This isn’t Terminator Judgment Day. Chill out, be cool and listen because you might actually learn something. That is, of course, if you don’t already know everything. Sadly, some think they do.

6 Those who observe life, the day, or feel compelled to start judging others, please take your anti-arrogance pills. Observe everything knowing that God honors that which we often criticize, ridicule and detest. Also, those who eat, whatever you decide on, eat it in honor of the Lord, since they, like you, give thanks to God. And honor those who abstain, as they too are like you, they abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God. We’re all giving thanks to God.

7 We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves.

8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s (Pues Si Vivimos para Dios Vivimos…)” Did you hear that? Everyone belongs to God not just your social club that looks, acts, talks, thinks and believes like you.

9 For this judgment and separation to end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be the Holy One of Israel for both the dead and the living. We have much more in common than separates us. Humanity matters. Compassion matters. You matter and so do those that are the polar opposite of you.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your global siblings, brothers or sisters? Or you, why do you despise your siblings, brothers or sisters who think, act and believe differently than you?

11 Don’t you get it? We are all part of God’s joyful creation and the human familia (family). For the 3rd time, “You ain’t no better or worse than the person next to you or the stranger who is not yet a friend.”
We will all be before God at some point. As Christian Scriptures state, “As I live, says Sophia, every knee shall take a bow before me, and every everyone shall give praise to God.

12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God. And God will ask this piercing question, “What have you done to make the world a place where judgment is no more, and hate is replaced with love, compassion and where grace abounds.” Let us live love, compassion, grace and goodness

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