Recently my wife and I traveled to the Oregon coast for a family reunion. My brother and sister-in-law provided the family with beautiful condos right on the ocean. I had a great time walking along the beach and watching the waves come crashing in.
One day while we were there we visited Newport. We spent our time in the Historic Bayfront district. Bayfront is a working waterfront that services Yaquina Bay, a busy harbor that is home to the largest commercial fishing fleet in Oregon. The turn of the century historic buildings of Bayfront house shops, art galleries, chowder houses, restaurants, and tourist attractions. I enjoyed the feeling of taking a step back in time and trying to imagine this bustling port in times past.
Because of the large numbers of sea lions in Newport this winter, they completely covered every dock. Many of the sea lions spend their time trying to sleep while others are barking to show their dominance. While I was watching I noticed a smaller juvenile that was swimming in the water near the docks. He kept trying to find a place to haul out of the water onto the docks but every time he would be kept from getting on the docks by larger males. He kept my attention as I watched him try to find a place on the docks. I became attached to this sea lion and his mission and named him George.
I watched for 15 minutes as George kept trying and trying only to be rebuffed at every turn. Finally he was able to haul himself up onto a cable that was attached between two floating docks. Once he was on the cable he kept slowly and carefully inching his way onto the attached dock. After a while George was able to get his front flippers onto the dock. By carefully maneuvering he was able to get most of his body onto a corner of the dock. I cheered him on; “Atta boy, George.” As he was trying to get enough room to actually be able to lie down he drew the ire of a couple of occupants of the dock who slowly moved closer to the edge and forced George back into the water.
I felt sorry for poor George. The rest of the time I spent watching the sea lions he was never able to find a place to haul out of the water. No one would make room for George.
In Luke chapter 15 Jesus tells three stories; the story of the lost sheep, the story of the lost coin and the story of the prodigal son. If we read the first three verses of the chapter it tells us why Jesus told the stories. “The tax collectors and sinners all came to listen to Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to complain: ‘Look, this man welcomes sinners and even eats with them.’ Then Jesus told them this story.” Luke 15:1-3 (NCV)
In Jesus, the outcasts of society have hope. Those that the religious community marginalize can find Him extending a hand, inviting them back into the community with dignity and affection. When you study the life of Jesus you see that no one ever opened a wider door of hope and love to the human race.
The love of God is inclusive. God’s salvation is offered to everyone no matter what their background is or what they have done in the past. His grace gives everyone the same options: to believe or not to believe, to trust or not to trust.
Gentle Reader, if you study the teaching and example of Jesus you will see that he was a champion of the oppressed. His example was one of unconditional love and He was against all exclusionary practices. Let’s resolve to follow his example.