Category Archives: Learning from Jesus

The articles in Learning from Jesus have specific principles we can apply to our life and our relationship with others.

God Loves Pink Monkeys

There is a legend about a “pink monkey” which describes a behavioral experiment involving a group of monkeys. Supposedly, some behaviorists dyed one monkey pink and returned it to the monkey group. After a brief perusal of the pink monkey, the other monkeys attacked it so viciously that the researchers had to rescue the pink monkey.

This “Pink Monkey” experiment is not true, but rather a social parable about how human beings tend to treat those who are different. More often than not we tend to push off to the side those who are different; those who don’t readily fit into our picture of the norm.

Differences can include physical appearance, intellectual ability, physical ability or disability, personality, emotional states, mental health challenges and the like.  The “pink monkey” in the parable was different. He no longer blended in with the tribe. Therefore, he was suspect, he was isolated and attacked.

The sad part of this “pink monkey” story is that I learned about it through a high school girl. She read about the “Pink Monkey” experiment and likened it to in her peer group  – feeling the attack of disapproval, rejection and indifference. She believes herself to be a “Pink Monkey” rather that a wondrous creation of God reflecting His image.

This may be an extreme conclusion for her to draw, and may not totally reflect the whole reality of her situation, but it is how this young woman feels. I was deeply moved by this girl’s feelings and had to ask myself, “How am I doing at loving and accepting those who are different from the norm or from my expectations and standards?”

God Created “Pink Monkeys*” (*Please note I am in no way saying that man is a monkey, or that people who are different are monkeys. I am using this term to refer to all those who stand out from the norm like the “pink monkey in the story.)

I want to advocate that we see beyond the “pink” to the beauty of God in each person. “Pink Monkeys” are created in the image of God just as is everyone else.

  • “These are the family records of the descendants of Adam. On the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God…” Genesis 5:1
  • “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:17
  • “But now, O Lord, you are our Father;we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

God creates us to reflect Him, His intelligence, creativity, capacity for love, mercy and so on. Each person in some way reflects God. People will look very different; have differing degrees of intellectual ability, different personalities, and contrasting emotional states. The type or amount of these qualities does not change the image of God within that person.

We, as God’s creations, are called to respect and respond to His image in others. I believe that is why “to love one another” is the second priority in God’s commands. By loving one another we demonstrate that we are in God’s image, and we bring out His image in others.

God Champions “Pink Monkeys”
In the scriptures we see that God has a heart for all people and He seems to especially seek out those who are marked as different in some way: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. God has no partiality for those whom man deems as beautiful, whole, charismatic, successful, and so on. Scripture testifies to this.

  • “… who (God) shows no partiality to princes,nor regards the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of his hands?” Job 34:19
  • “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality …” Deuteronomy 10:17
  • “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” James 2:1

Let’s look more closely at God’s love for those that man often finds wanting.

The Withered
There was a man in the synagogue who had a withered hand. It was physically distracting to others and useless to him. Performing daily tasks and earning a living with the use of only one hand was indeed challenging, especially in the age and society in which he lived.

Jesus had a heart to help this man by healing him. But the leaders in the synagogue did not care about this man’s life or his feelings. In fact, it seems they used him to trap Jesus by accusing Him of doing work (healing) on the Sabbath.

Jesus was grieved in his heart at their “coldness of heart,” their lack of regard and care that these men had for the condition of the man with the withered hand. Yet, Jesus had compassion on him and healed the man, risking the wrath of the religious leaders. (Read:Mark. 3:1-6)

As I reflect on Jesus’ character in this situation, I ask myself: “What is my heart towards people whose appearance is unusual maybe from burns, an accident, a birth defect, an amputation, skin lesions from a disease, or other physical issues? Am I willing to reach out and touch them, welcome them into my group, befriend them? Serve them? Look past their appearance, disability or behavior and see the person within? Am I willing to put myself in their shoes? Do I give them the value God does, or do I consider them somehow less important, or less valuable?”

The Cast Out
On a busy pathway a man with a dreaded disease approached Jesus. This man had leprosy a disease that in those days marred physical appearance, brought isolation to its victim and fear to others around him/her. The leper was literally “cast out,” forced to keep a designated distance from others,  and to label and identify him/herself as unclean, unacceptable.

Jesus’ response was amazing. He did not turn away from this man, reject him or follow the accepted protocol. Jesus reached out in compassion and touched this man, who had probably not had an affirming touch in a long time.

  • “Then a man with a serious skin disease came to Him … Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched him. “I am willing,”he told him. “Be made clean.”  Immediately the disease left him, and he was healed.” Mark 1:40-41

As I read this account in the life of Jesus I ask myself who do I hold at a distance and why?

The Out of Control
There are many reasons as to why a person’s emotions, thought processes and or behaviors may be out of control. Jesus reached out to just such a man. In fact this man was so out of control that people had chained him in a graveyard. (Wow, how is that for acceptance and affirmation from your peers)?

This man had self destructive tendencies; he was obviously in turmoil and pain. Everyone feared him and ran away from him, but Jesus reached out to him, drew him in, helped him and had a vision for this man that went beyond the grave yard.

  • “As soon as Jesus got out of the boat, He was met by a man with an unclean spirit, who was coming from the tombs. This man had been living in the tombs and could no longer be restrained, even with chains. Though he was often bound with chains and shackles, he had broken the chains and shattered the shackles. Now there was no one with the strength to subdue him. Night and day in the tombs and in the mountains he kept crying out and cutting himself with stones.” Read: Mark 5:1-20

Jesus did not bind this man, which surely He could have done. Jesus did not ignore this man. Jesus looked at this man, took time to hear his story and then helped him. In the end, we see Jesus and the man sitting together talking and then Jesus gives the man a new purpose.

  • “Jesus said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.” Mk. 5:19-20

You, Me and “Pink Monkeys”
What does this say to you and me? If you profess faith in Jesus and claim to follow Him, then it says a lot.

We are recipients of the grace and abundant love of God, and are called to love as Jesus loved.  Some questions I am asking myself about my love for others:

  • Do I love others beyond those who include me in a familiar circle?
  • Do I pull in those who for whatever reason are on the fringes?
  • Do I consider and value those who have a different personality type than me?
  • Do I fellowship those who have a physical or a mental challenge?
  • Am I emulating God’s love?
  • Am I teaching my children and others how to see and love other people?

Jesus stopped. Jesus looked deeply. Jesus listened. Jesus acted in compassion and love!
Let us follow His example.

 

 

Patterns of Love

A friend of mine was praying and in that prayer she asked to be able to love other people. She boldly went on to specify that she wanted to love others like Jesus loved. Immediately, all sorts of pictures of Jesus loving people flashed through my mind.

Suddenly I saw my own weakness in this area. It is easy for me to love people who show love, or even “like” to me. I usually feel good in their presence. They, in fact, are the people I tend to hang with and seek time in their presence.

But what do I do with those who do not readily show appreciation of me, my ideas, my style, etc.? What about those who do not voice their approval or value of me? What about those who may look at me, my actions, my words, or my family with a shade of criticism? What about those who seem to interact with me in a way that demonstrates their superiority?

My pattern is to gently withdraw myself from these people. When hostility is shown by those beyond my immediate circle, I create an even safer distance.

So my love for people is not like that of Jesus. Those two sentences in my friend’s prayer challenged my heart. I want to grow in this area, so I am looking at some of those pictures of Jesus that flashed through my mind. I see one in Mark 3:1-6. 

Jesus Loves Hard People in Hard Times –
Love that Makes People Whole
In Mark 3:1-6, Jesus goes against tradition and heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. He took a stand and loved a man by restoring the use of his hand. Jesus is in the business of helping people to become whole. It took courage to stand before the critical religious leaders and love this man.

“Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.”

Love in the Face of Hostility
This passage notes that Jesus was grieved in His heart about the hardness  of heart and lack of love these leaders had for their fellow man.  Jesus had a righteous anger about their lack of love.  They stood watching and waiting for Jesus to show his love for this man and in so doing violate their law, their standard. The hearts of these religious leaders were hard – filled with envy, criticisms and wrong judgment. Yet, Jesus loved them.

Love Is Grief at a Hard Heart
You may think, “How did He love them?” Jesus’ love for them is noted by the fact that He felt sadness towards them and the condition of their heart. This so to speak softness of heart towards their hardness of heart demonstrates God’s overall heart of mercy towards man. Jesus did not condemn them but instead was grieved at the condition of their heart.

Love Asks Poignant Questions
Jesus did not speak harsh words to them, but rather, asked a gentle but poignant question that would lead them to reflect on what is right, just, equitable and good. See Mark 3:4.

“And He *said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent.” Mk. 3:4

Love Is Vulnerable
Jesus did not withdraw himself from this circle of hostility, but He made himself vulnerable to their hostility. Jesus shows these leaders what love really looks like by taking a stand and publicly healing this man. Jesus could have followed this man out; pulled him aside privately and healed him, if the healing was all He was about.

In this act of love towards the man with the withered hand in the company of hostile men, Jesus deliberately and vulnerably loved these men by very clearly revealing to them that He was the Son of God. He was vulnerable, opening Himself to their conspiracy of hate, and loved them enough to show them God in the flesh.

What about Me? What about You?
I tend to withdraw from those who are critical, those who seem disapproving of me; those who are jealous; those who act superior, and definitely those who are hostile.

Jesus looks beyond the hard exterior of people, and He has compassion for their heart. He sets about to restore the physical being and the inner heart. That is love.

Lord, teach us to love others like you do!

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“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:8-9