“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous but sinners.”
If I’m completely honest, sometimes I get uncomfortable around people unlike me. The larger the differences seem to be, the more inclined I am to avoid interaction with that person. I have become very adept at navigating away from the conversations most likely to produce awkwardness, people I characterize as distant from my wavelength, and situations centered around that which I am neither familiar with nor interested.
This, I think, is a cowardly, fear-based method of thinking. I don’t like that I have to admit that I’m wrong. But all too often, I take the easy way out of situations when faced with this sort of dilemma. It’s too much work. I fail to see a meaningful aspect of it. I reject the notion that it may grow into something valuable down the road. Operating out of fear rather than love is no way to live. It cripples our sense of connection, social risk, and very likely, our capacity to love.
It is when I make conscious efforts to step out of the proverbial comfort zone that I am freed to connect, love, and engage those who may be, in a sense, far from me. Without an attitude of humble effort, love will not be made known. Ideas may not be explored. Connection may not occur.
God knows that many of us who claim allegiance to him simply neglect engaging others deemed too far from him. Laziness, misguided priorities, and hearts of apathy plague the Church too often.
I think one of the most beautiful things about Jesus is that he shows us what it looks like to engage those far from God. Jesus came to a people whose hearts were far from God, spent lots and lots of time with those people, connected deeply with some of those people, and told those people to journey with more people who were far from God. Jesus calls people to escape social selfishness and explore the freedom of shared life. And I think this is one of the aspects of a full, abundant life that he promises if we journey with him. We are made for connection with God, connection with fellow Jesus-followers, and connection with those far from God.
How will they call out to God unless they hear about his undying love and message of hope? How will that message be shared unless someone is willingly sent?
This is only the beginning. I am constantly reminded that people are each on a journey. We each have a story. And stories intersect; at least good ones do. Engaging with people unlike our own selves is a journey; maybe, just maybe authentic connections and community can grow from the smallest of seeds to the tallest of trees. And maybe through those relationships, the story can become about redemption, reconciliation, renewed life, second and third and thousandth chances, burdens will be carried together, tears streamed and joys celebrated together. Maybe through these shared experiences we can learn how the Gospel changes us for the better, the absurdly good news of a God who gives a rip about people far from him enough that he goes to search and rescue.
This is how the lost get found.