(Dedicated to those lost in the Orlando tragedy, and those who loved them for the unique people each of them was. We mourn their loss, and celebrate their lives)

I saw a bumper sticker the other day. It read, “(heart) God, (heart) people”. Nice sentiment; who is going to argue with that? Me! What have I got against (heart) God, (heart) people? Nothing except that we as a “body of Christ” really don’t subscribe to that philosophy! Oh yeah, we give it a ton of lip service. “God loves you and so do I”, “God loves all people”, “all are welcome in the kingdom of God”, and other not-so-very-genuine statements Christians make every day.

The vast majority of churchgoers and professing Christians I have met in my life don’t really mean what they say about loving everyone. Does anyone really love everyone?? No, because we are human.

I work in an industry that cares for the developmentally and intellectually disabled. I head up the Health Services department and love my job…..and more importantly I love the people I care for. What I have learned about myself, about God, about life is another whole blog post by itself. Each of the living God-breathed souls I care for each day have a purpose, a message, a life of meaning, and each leave their unique fingerprint on the world.

We have staff of every variety of humankind. We are a nation unto ourselves; white, Hispanic, African American, Africans, Christian, Atheist, Wiccan, Muslim, Straight, Gay and Transgender.

When I walked into that job a few years back, I walked in a conservative believer with an attitude of superiority because God and I were tight and I knew what He tolerated and what He did not. The churches that I have attended viewed homosexuality as a sin, and any other religion as inferior to Christianity, or just plain wrong.

We, as humans, like to label others so that we can establish categories that each belong to. Strip the labels away and you have a rainbow of humanity, each uniquely created and loved by the Creator. Stripping the labels away forces us to acknowledge the person as a living breathing human deserving of respect and dignity.

Oddly, or maybe not so oddly, some of our best staff are those who have been ridiculed, shunned, misunderstood and mistreated by society, and many by professing Christians. I can give society at large a minor pass, but not Christians. Aren’t we the representatives of God on earth? Aren’t we supposed to understand the heart of God?

In Yeshua’s (Jesus) day those who were shunned, ridiculed, considered unclean, were the lepers, the Samaritans, women, and each was considered unworthy of God’s love and acceptance. And yet Jesus accepted them all. Not much has changed, has it? We are still deciding who and who is not “worthy” of love, and acceptance by us and by God.

Being immersed in many who are “different” than I am on a daily basis has changed me. Some in the church might say that I have become “desensitized” and am teetering on the edge of losing my salvation because I am associating with the “unclean”, those outside the church. But I disagree. Involvement with people different than me has made me realize that we are all in this together, we are human and share the trials, triumphs and challenges common to all humanity. It has opened the door, at times, to discussing the hurts and challenges that have shaped us and how we view others, and view God, Sometimes I am asked to pray for or pray with others.

I don’t run around wearing a placard announcing my relationship with God. I mess up in front of others; things come out of my mouth that are less than Christlike, I get angry, frustrated, you name it I have likely stepped in it at some point, but there is still something that others perceive in me that is different. I love the opportunity to talk with others about the hard issues, spiritual issues, faith, trust, hope and God. It’s humbling. Sometimes I don’t have answers; I just listen and that’s ok. People need to be heard.

The biggest take-away for me from this whole experience is that people are people, and God loves them all. I don’t know where that person may be on their journey with God, or even if there is a journey. Another person’s journey really isn’t my business in the grand scheme of things. I trust that if that person is open to hearing the voice of God, He doesn’t need my help to speak. But what I do know is that when I am open to all kinds of people and accept them as they are, there is a higher probability they will give God a chance. I’m not perfect, far from it, and everyone who knows me knows that!

The reality is I don’t want people to see a “perfect” version of me because that is not real, not genuine. When we work overtime to wear the face of perfection in front of others we are giving the wrong message to those who don’t know God. If I am “perfect” the message is that you must also be perfect for God to accept you. Not true.

God created this rainbow of humanity and He loves His creation. Do you shun others different than you? Maybe it is a lack of understanding, or fear that someone different from you will “rub off” on you. Fear should never be a factor in choosing to associate with another.

Many Christian churches have strong feelings and teachings against the homosexual or transgender person. I will admit I was one of those people, but it was because I didn’t see them as a creation of God. The churches and Christians I have known taught me to view them as their “sin”, not as a uniquely created being. I refuse to judge another and what I think is “sin”. I surely don’t want others judging my “sins”! That whole judgment thing is God’s business, not mine. The only one I can be concerned with in terms of “sin” is me.

I used to believe, as many do, that homosexuality/transgender is a choice. I no longer believe that. God doesn’t make mistakes. I do believe God creates spirits clothed in human skin. The spirit of the person is who he/she is, not the human clothing that is worn. I know for me, the experiences I have had in life, to a great extent, shaped the person I am today. It hasn’t been an easy ride, but this spirit God created is accepted by God and loved by God.

Do I “love” everyone? No, honestly sometimes it’s a struggle because some people are just irritating, frustrating, am I right? But I try to see people as a unique creation of God. Not all people make me all squishy like puppies and kittens, but I do know that God loves us ALL.

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