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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?