One of the unique things about being an elementary music teacher was getting to see every student in the school each week.
Every class we’d have an opening question. Sometimes as simple as “What did you do over the weekend?” or “What do you have planned for next weekend?”
Eventually I’d ask each class, “Where is the best place to go for tacos in Rock Springs?”
To appreciate the question, you need to understand that when we moved from California to Wyoming, we knew there’d be things left behind. Things we would miss.
Family. Friends. Fresh produce. In-N-Out Burgers. Good tacos.
No, no. I mean REALLY good tacos. And it’s okay if you don’t know. If you’ve never had REALLY good tacos, there’s simply no way you could know.
And don’t come after me with any of your El Paso, Phoenix, Amarillo or Seattle substitutes. Sure, they’re good. But the best tacos in the world come out of East Los Angeles. If you don’t know King Taco, if you don’t know El Tarasco—it’s okay. You just don’t know.
Yes. Surpisingly, Seattle. There’s good reason. But again—if you don’t know, you just don’t know.
Last night was Taco Tuesday, so I was grabbing a to-go order of decent-for-a-chain-restaurant tacos. While waiting I called up Matt, my friend who has known me longer than anybody.
Except my folks. Hi, Mom!
Matt and I got to talking about how people like to bash each other, with whatever disagreement is at hand. Including religion and churches. And Jesus, in particular.
How often we’ve seen things come up in an online forum where some genius will take one tiny sliver of something they happen to know about Jesus and use it as an argument to bash somebody else.
“Well, Jesus cursed a tree for not having any fruit. And you say you’re a Christian but I don’t see any fruit of that in your life. So you should be cursed, too.” Or some other nonsense.
With my two-tacos in hand I looked at it and told Matt, “That’s like somebody picking one pinto bean off the plate and formulating an argument about a taco”.
While rice and beans go with tacos like Hallmark movies and eye-rolls, one bean does not a taco make.
Especially for a purist like me. Beans IN the taco? Thanks, but no.
Still, people dissect Jesus all the time and treat a sliver as Who Jesus Is. They take one part of something Jesus said or did and build an entire case from there. Usually as a mechanism to gain leverage over somebody else. “Well, Jesus said ‘an eye for an eye’, therefore…”
That’s nothing new, the religious elite in the first century did it too. The Bible is full of those stories.
And it misses the point entirely. Just like you can’t take one shred of lettuce or one bean and call it a taco, you can’t take one thing that Jesus said or did and call it “Well Jesus”.
“Well, Jesus said…” “Well, Jesus did…”
You know what’s crazy?
According to scripture, Jesus liked people who were nothing like him. And people who were nothing like Jesus actually LIKED Jesus.
That certainly didn’t happen because Jesus picked people apart, one bean at a time.
Do you realize how different that is from today’s social media platforms? And much of our offline interactions as well?
Today, be genuinely likable to somebody. Anybody. As a way to reflect Jesus’ love to the world around you.
Likable: Friendly. Good-natured. Engaging. Sympathetic. Nice. Pleasant. Any of those synonyms will work just fine.
Do it as an exercise of worship.
For some of you this will come naturally. For others this will take some effort. Do it anyway.
How can we be salt or light to people in the world around us if we can’t even be likable to them?
Jesus said, “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
Matthew 5:13-16, MSG
Reflecting Jesus’ love to the world around you.
P.S. The best recommendation I ever got for tacos in Rock Springs? Casa Chavez. It tastes just like home. There’s good reason for that. It turns out the Chavez family and I actually grew up in the same city and went to high school together!