What Toronto taught me

What Toronto taught me

Posted on August 10, 2016
BY EMILY O’CONNOR, COMMUNICATIONS SUMMER INTERN

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

We tend to get bogged down in the technicalities and specifics of Christianity. Heck, it’s why we’re split into denominations. These detail-oriented conversations have a time and a place and can be valuable for our spiritual growth. But rarely are we able to strip Christianity back down to its root – to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.

Toronto gave me this opportunity. Our group of 11 interns only walked the streets of Toronto for three days, granted they were very long days. We walked and talked and thought and wrestled with the many kinds of injustices we saw while worshiping a God we’ve always called good. But we tried our best to ask hard questions humbly, remembering we were nowhere to be found while God laid the earth’s foundation and marked off its dimensions (Job 38:4-5).

We heard stories of men and women who were shot and strangled while working the streets. I watched a woman circle a corner for hours one night, wondering if she was cold, tired, scared, or just numb. I talked with a gay man who was estranged from his family and cried to me while describing an Elton John music video of a father on his death bed finally accepting his son as gay. I watched as two young women helped their stumbling drunk friend up to take communion during church.

“…teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:1-11.

I couldn’t shake this story from my head as I encountered seemingly condemned people. Jesus is the only person who can throw a stone. Instead he tells us to go and sin no more, knowing full well that we will sin again. This story is cyclical; we are continually dragged in front of Jesus with our sinful consciences, and he continually tells us he will not condemn us, and each time we are more redeemed than the last.

What does it mean that I follow a God who hung on a cross instead of throwing a stone? I don’t know if we can fully understand this side of heaven. But I know I saw a glimpse of it in Toronto; people were loved based on their worth, not their sin. Even though their sin may have been more outward, I am just as sinful on the inside. I am the adulterous woman every day, and I am called to be Jesus to the adulterous woman every day. I am called to love others based on their worth as a beloved child of God and nothing else.

So instead of throwing stones, I will sacrifice my comforts in order to love people the way they deserve to be loved. And my sacrifices will be met with contempt, and the world will throw stones. But still my job is to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with my God.

Comments

Emily this is so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

Posted by Brooke on August 10, 2016 @ 7:34 pm

This is beautiful, Em. Love this and you!

Posted by Amy Bennett on August 10, 2016 @ 3:44 pm