Crafting areas of belonging- What would Jesus truly do?

When looking at how we, as followers of Jesus, ought to behave we have no greater example than the man we follow.  The issue of crafting areas where people can belong is one I’ve addressed here before.  But something I haven’t really talked about is how far from the ideal of Jesus’ behaviors we’ve truly fallen. To demonstrate this point, I’ll talk about a few different groups of people that are close to my heart.

  1. The punks, the goths, the scattered remnants of culture on the edge of society:  I can’t just point to one youth movement and say “that one”, there are too many.  So whether it’s the guy getting high in the alleyway or the tattooed beauty throwing down dance moves in the club- where do they belong in relation to us?  How do we get close enough to share God’s heart with them?  We can’t say, “come to us, all who are thirsty,” and just wait for them to show up on a Sunday morning…   especially since if they showed up looking like they do on Friday night, we’d just throw them out.
  2. The single parents and couples choosing to live together without marrying:  They don’t have relationships like the Good Christian Standard, and they are painfully aware of it.  Talking about their kids or their partners means talking about how very much they’ve fallen short of what is expected, should they become Christian.  They may miss the faith of their youth or just know there is something missing from their life…  but trying to build a relationship with the church is full of discomfort and feeling judged and found wanting.  One might argue that this is part of how God “convicts” them and shows them their need for him…  but do you think God really wants to convict them right out of ever even trying to worship him?  How can we show them his love?
  3. Gay people.  Do I even need to say more?

Jesus ministered to people in three major ways:  He went to where they were (by eating in their homes), he went to places where they had easy access to him (by preaching on hillsides, at the docks, or in the marketplace), and he performed miracles for the desperately needy.  All of these ways of ministering were revolutionary.  A good priest would not eat at a tax collectors home, most certainly not in the company of drunkards and other sinners, as Jesus did  (Matthew 9, Mark 2, Luke 5) as this would make them unclean.  A good priest spoke from a place of authority- such as the temple or the city gates.  Going out into public arenas that were the province of farmers and tradesman would have been an act of lowering onesself- but these were the arenas in which Jesus gained all of his power.  Why?  Because the people flocked to him.  Because they were welcomed by him.  The dichotomy of Jesus versus the religious leaders sees no greater example than this, as women and children were not even allowed into the temple proper, and thus could never be taught in the way men were.  But the Bible shows so often that women and children were also welcomed into Jesus’ world, never more clearly than in Luke 18 when Jesus so famously says, “let the children come to me… The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”

Then, of course, there are the miracles.  People like the Man born blind (John 9) whom people saw as recieving his judgment through his blindness, and thus avoided.  Or the woman who was subject to an issue of blood (Matthew 9) who touched Jesus’ cloak- an act which could have been seen as horribly offensive.  A woman who was bleeding was not to leave her home or to touch a man, as this was unclean.  But yet this woman had faith that Jesus would pity her, she thought, “I will only touch his cloak”, and he turns to her and says, “take heart.”

That must have blown her world apart.

So Jesus created three arenas in which the people belonged with him (or he belonged to them, as one might see it)- in their homes, in their public world, and through meeting their immediate needs and taking pity on them.  How can we, as Christians, do the same?  Are we brave enough to dine at the home of a gay couple?  To pass out water at the door of the blue-haired girl’s favorite bar or club?  To give diapers to the teenage mother, or groceries to the couple living “in sin”?

Are we brave enough to take off the WWJD? bumper sticker and really ask ourselves what our Father is doing?

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10 thoughts on “Crafting areas of belonging- What would Jesus truly do?

  1. It seems easier for many to just talk about people, their sin and how they are living rather than spend time with people sharing hope, encouragement and love with one another when it’s needed-like Jesus did.

    Take away all the titles that separate us, punk, goth, gay, homeless, poor, etc. and we are all just people, each and everyone of us. All in need.

    I agree, we do need to become brave enough, perhaps less selfish and/or throw that self righteous attitude out the window in order to truly ask what our Father is doing.

    Good post.

    • Thank you. And you are right- strip us all down to the core, and we are fundamentally the same. We are all weak and helpless and desperately in need of God.

      I think one of the most paralyzing things that can happen when someone opens their mind to ministering to the punks or the gay people is realizing how human they are- and how close we are all to being judged wanting and simply tossed aside.

      It really is terrifying! But necessary.

  2. Ok, I know this is actually a little diversion from your beautiful post but it’s something I feel needs to be mentioned.

    I have been spending oodles of time with Chris’s 14 year old niece and have had more than a few “wake up calls” about what is going on in youth culture at the moment. One thing that particularly struck me was her attitude about sex.

    We were watching “The Secret Life of The American Teenager”. The dialogue? LAUGHABLY AWFUL. But here’s the gist. A girl’s father told her not to have sex but she did and then he died in a crash and she feels guilty. BUT THE DIALOGUE.

    She kept saying stuff like “If only I hadn’t had incredible sex with my boyfriend, my father would still be alive!”

    Over and over they referred to incredible sex and great sex, amazing sex. I did my very best to counteract it and in the process found out something very interesting.

    As far as she was concerned, abstinence was so married (ha!) to Christianity that she felt that since she wasn’t really Christian, abstinence didn’t apply to her. In her mind, abstinence was for Christians only. APPARENTLY this idea is rather prevalent.

    • Now that’s scary. Hopefully you can help guide her to make responsible decisions. Not to mention, I have yet to meet someone who said the sex as a teenager was incredible.

    • Oh, man. hellooooo can of worms!

      All of the reasons that actually made me wait until I had my husband were the ones that had the least to do with the specifics of my faith. Like, sex devoid of a real connection to someone is just an exercise in self gratification. You might as well masturbate. (Try saying THAT from the pulpit! Ha!) Having really AWESOME sex takes practice, time, and real intimacy. Your first few sexual experiences with ANY partner aren’t likely to be mind-blowing. If you want your mind blown, you need to choose partners wisely. (Again, try saying that with a straight face in a purely Christian context). Your virginity doesn’t belong to anyone but yourself- neither does your sexuality. But being someone’s first partner- or allowing someone to be yours- is an incredible honor. It could paint the way they (or you) view sex forever. The memories of your first time will be with you for the rest of your life- once you’ve gone there you really can’t ever go back.

      And all of that isn’t even touching on the worlds of STDs or having children, responsibilities one must be ready to face before venturing into sexual territory.

      And all of this? Purely logic and reason, not faith.

      Hm, maybe I should be posting this instead of commenting in.

  3. Jesus did not say, “Come to My church.” He said, “Go into the world.”

    The failure of the church is that we are waiting for hurting people to come to our brick buildings while the hurting people are waiting to see real-deal Christians come to them. We need to change…what we’re doing is not working.

    • YES! Jesus didn’t say, “okay, you disciples right there? You bang out some amazing worship and pick the most talented rhetorical speaker and put on an amazing Sabbath service and everyone will come listen and fill out prayer cards! It’ll be great!”

      HA! If that had been the great commission, we could all just be patting each other on the backs right now. But, Alas, there is still a lot of work to do. Thanks for reading/commenting! 🙂

    • Yeah, reading the way the priests talked about Jesus is an eye opening thing. There’s a REASON they didn’t acknowledge him as the Messiah. They viewed him with about as much honor and respect as we view gum on our shoes. EW! Get RID OF IT!

      And yet we think we need to behave “respectably”, that we need to mind our image, that a good Christian is clean cut and above even the slightest reproach. Yeah, sure. If the priests could look at Jesus and think, “he’s a glutton and drunkard and friend of whores!” and that reputation was good enough for the Son of God, it’s good enough for me.

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