“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (Jn. 10:16)
I once had a parishioner named Harry, who believed he was both a Jew and a Christian. He celebrated Hanukah with his Jewish family and he served at the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. For Harry, there was no conflict or confusion between his two expressions of faith. One of his great gifts was that he “colored beyond the lines.”
When Harry died a funeral home called, saying he had designated me to conduct his service. I called his family to set up a visit. When I arrived at his mother’s home, the atmosphere was pretty chilly. They were in grief and they were also surprised and troubled that Harry had asked a priest to do his funeral. They had no idea Harry had also thought of himself as a Christian.
After we had shared some Harry-stories, and after I had reassured them I would be glad to include their rabbi in the funeral, we put together a service that honored the complexity of Harry’s life and faith.
We have a precedent for someone who “colored beyond the lines” and that’s Jesus. Throughout His life Jesus reached out to those who didn’t belong. His love couldn’t be contained. His grace couldn’t be confined. When some group put up a boundary in front of Jesus, He crossed it. When another group erected a wall, He dismantled it.
In grade school, we were told to not color beyond the lines. As Christians, we must be careful not to color within them. We may desire to keep things tidy, but Jesus desires messiness. We may want to know who’s in and who’s out, but Jesus wants to include everyone. Jesus’ intention to embrace all couldn’t be clearer: “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also… So, there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
One of the reasons why Harry, though Jewish, gave his life to Jesus was that he knew he needed a “color beyond the lines” Savior. Jesus encourages us to know and to practice the same.
- Does Jesus “coloring beyond the lines” make you uncomfortable or comfortable?
- Are you more inclined to identify with those who want their walk with Jesus to be tidy or messy? How come?
- Jesus was born in messy conditions, He lived in messy ways, He died a messy death—all for us. How might messy-Jesus be disrupting your own tidy boundaries, tidy theologies, tidy plans, and tidy judgments?