I don’t think I can do that.
The second the words came out of my mouth I felt a mix of both shame and relief. Ashamed that I felt relief perhaps.
Just moments before, the youth pastor of our small country church had asked me to do a favor for him. Glad to help and serve where needed, I answered him, “Sure! What can I do for you?”
He warned me that it was a big ask. Thinking through my love for people, for the teens, for the church and community, I asked again, “How can I help?”
He then went on to describe someone who needed a ride to church every week.
Initially, I thought it would be easy to help because she lived in the same town I did, and we drove to the next town for church every week anyways.
Then he described where she lived. It wasn’t too far away, and I knew exactly the neighborhood he was talking about. In fact, realizing where he was talking about changed the entire tone of the conversation. I immediately came up with internal excuses with why I couldn’t do what he was asking of me.
She will smell up my car.
She probably has lice and will give it to my kids.
She will want a friendship with me.
I can’t be seen with her.
Of course I didn’t say any of those things out loud. Instead, I came up with some lame excuse about my inconsistent work schedule (even though I was my own boss) and my own desire to attend church on different days or even different campuses. He of course knew none of this was true, but didn’t push me. He knew it would be a big ask.
Looking back at that scenario, I realize there is so much difference in how I live my life now. That was almost 19 years ago. I am no longer in the same church, the same house, the same town even.
Who I am now, is not who I was. Jesus has made sure of that.
Now, I work with some of the most desperate and vulnerable people not just in my community, but on the planet.
I have such a heart for the lost and hurting and broken. The ones with lice. The ones that smell bad. The ones that no one else wants to be seen with. The ones that haven’t had their lives changed by Jesus yet. Now? Those are my people.
19 years ago, I wouldn’t have consciously said that I didn’t want to be around the “least of these,” the marginalized of society.
I would have said that it was wonderful that there were ministries out there that were called to reach them. I would have likely given money towards those ministries, and I may have even allowed myself to go on a short term missions trip to go and help “those” people.
But 19 years ago, I also didn’t know Jesus the way I know Him now. I certainly knew a version of Him, but I didn’t know the Jesus that calls me to go with Him to the places that no one else will go. It’s not that He wasn’t there. He was. It was me who held Him at arms length.
I don’t think my situation was that unique. I think that there are a lot of people who would say no to going to the bad part of town to pick up someone who lived there to ride along with their family to church. I think that there are a lot of people who would have cared more about how it looked then how we are commanded to do that very thing.
I think there are plenty of people who would ignore God’s voice in exchange for the voices of the world. Except, once you start to really know who God is, His is a voice you can’t ignore.
The calling to go and help those that are lost, in those broken and hurting spaces, is a calling that God places on the heart of every believer, whether you realize it or not. It’s those people that Jesus died for. And guess what? You and I were hurting and broken too.
Our brokenness may have looked different, but we were broken nonetheless.
The very reason we came to Christ in the first place is because we recognized that there was something broken in us, and Jesus was the only one that could fix it. Yet somehow, we seem to forget that when Jesus asks us to go into the dark and take someone that same light.
Over the years, the more I have gotten to know Jesus, the more I realize how important this is. In fact, it’s the most important thing.
Helping others to know Christ is the very reason we are still here. It’s not about our desires or our reputation, or even our need to be comfortable. It’s about Jesus. And telling this lost and hurting world that there is a way out of this darkness.
The role of the church, as a community of Jesus followers, is to act like Jesus in our community. We are to bring others into God’s family to help them feel loved and accepted.
If we don’t receive this in our own lives, not just as believers but as people, we can fall into this trap of thinking that no one wants us, no one accepts us, and we are all alone. Or perhaps, we send that message to others when we listen to the world instead of listening to God. Here are some of what I call the “one another’s.”
Love one another (John 13:34 - This command occurs at least 16 times)
Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10)
Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10)
Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
Build up one another (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Accept one another (Romans 15:7)
Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)
Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
Bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2)
Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:2, 32; Colossians 3:13)
Be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13)
Be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
Consider others better than yourselves (Philippians 2:3)
Teach one another (Colossians 3:16)
Comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18)
Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Exhort one another (Hebrews 3:13)
Show hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
Pray for one another (James 5:16)
Are you starting to see a theme here? These are just a few of the commands we see that address how we are to treat each other. I realize that this can be easier with some people than with others, but this is what we are called to do.
It isn’t…… love one another if they smell ok.
It isn’t……. accept one another if they live in the right part of town.
It isn’t……. show hospitality when they will fit in.
Those disclaimers are what we put on as conditions to our obedience. The reality? We are called to obedience even when it is uncomfortable or when it costs us something.
Obedience is rarely comfortable.
Things to ponder:
When was the last time I served someone that was out of my “comfort zone?” How do I normally handle those kinds of situations? What is one way I can move towards someone who has a heart for “one another?”
Things to pray:
Lord, show me how I can step into obedience in this area. My heart may not be willing right in this moment, but I want it to be. I want to be obedient to you in all things, including the areas that are hard for me.
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