It’s human nature, I suppose, to want to bring order to our worlds. We identify and classify and categorize so that we know where all the various pieces-parts fit. We do it with our spice cabinets, the plant and animal kingdoms, the socks in our drawers.
We like understanding what makes an animal a dog, and what it is that classifies both bull mastiffs and Yorkshire terriers as dogs. We like being able to quickly identify that a screwdriver is not a dog, nor is my hairbrush even though it has more hair in it than some dogs possess.
It’s comforting to have all our mallards, teals, and mergansers in a row. Until we run into something that doesn’t fit, that is.
If I told you I was walking by the water and I saw something go swimming by, you might assume I meant a fish if I give no further information to help you organize a picture in your own mind of what I saw. If I add that it had a bill and laid some eggs, you’d likely say “oh, a duck!” because now you have more information.
But what if I also said that it has fur and is warm-blooded and has a poison claw and a tail like a beaver and it uses electrolocation to find its prey?
That’s definitely not a duck, unless we’re talking some terrible B movie involving nuclear accidents and alien visitation. Which could happen, but in this case, we’re just talking about a platypus.
The platypus is a legit animal, but there is no getting around it: it’s weird. When it was first discovered scientists didn’t even believe it was real because it defies the norms of animal kingdom classification. If you apply all the criteria for a mammal, the platypus is disqualified. But it’s not a reptile, either. Nor a bird. In the end, science decided that it is indeed a mammal. Just a freaky one.
I have to wonder how many times we miss it because of the freaky factor.
I love Jesus. Like, crazy love Him. But I’ve learned over the years that there are always folks waiting to aim judgment based upon their own interpretations of scripture and what it means to follow Him. I’ve seen myriads of sold-out believers fall in the bullseye of their target. The questions come and condemnation follows.
True believers wouldn’t have cable TV. True believers wouldn’t engage in the practices of the charismatic church. True believers wouldn’t have tattoos. True believers wouldn’t see R-rated movies (let alone act in them), or drink alcohol, or laugh in church, or say shit. They wouldn’t wear tank tops in public or go out dancing or listen to pop music. True believers would only vote for other believers during elections. True believers would condemn evolution and Catholics and gays and public schools. True believers would repost this to their own wall and forward it to 10 friends to prove that they are not ashamed of the gospel…
The list goes on and on. We all have ideas of what a true believer would look and sound like, but those ideas are filtered through the grid of our upbringing, our faith history, our maturity, our culture, and even the time period we live in. Even the things we believe that scripture says “clearly” are often colored by personal interpretations that we’re too biased to recognize. It can make for a confusing picture.
But when the freaky factor starts to stir things up, we can remember that Jesus gave us a huge clue to help us with this particular kind of classification. He mentioned it to His disciples while He was on earth, and it still applies to those of us who are His disciples today.
“Everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
Love. The primary mark of a disciple. And more than that, love that extends to other disciples.
Even the freaky ones that otherwise seem to defy classification.
It doesn’t matter how squeaky clean I might live my life or how shiny the cross around my neck is if my life lacks evidence of sibling love. If I’m not extending grace and honor to others as a personal act of devotion to Jesus, then one has to wonder just how much Jesus I’m packing.
Because Jesus loves Him some platypuses.