In a time what seems long, long ago now, I found myself reaping the painful wages of a life of sin. During a counseling session, one of the only things I recall from them, the instructor challenged an answer from among we who had strayed far from the socially acceptable.
His question was, “Where will you turn for help?” The immediate answer from among us was “the Church,” to which we were informed, “No, not so… they will want nothing to do with you in your condition,” insinuating we needed fixed before the church would accept us.
These very words have personally harbored an eerie reality for me on occasion as the years have passed. I have played the villainous role as much as any other. It is as Michael Cheshire writes, “…We Eat Our Own.”
I sit listening to a dear friend share of God’s work in her family’s life, inserting often, by slight referents, the pain she has endured at the hands of the churchy careless, and my mind races to a distant land where the missionary has subjected himself to the outcast, sick, and sinner alike.
I remember my friend and pastor’s wisdom to note the missionary’s right reasoning and strategy to reach the perishing by becoming one with them. He must do so if he will feel their pain, so he does.
The scenes of a missionary life in Senegal are hard to separate from the words we read by Paul, how he ‘becomes who he must’ for the sake of the gospel. It is, at least to me, evident the fear I would embrace just knowing how easily one can be taken advantage of through the daily routine of becoming immersed in the ministry of going and giving.
The world I live in is in so many ways incomparable to my friend’s. I pray for grace multiplied to the missionary and his family as they endure the hardships of living without so much of what I merely take for granted.
Our worlds are no different though in an equal number of ways. We will both awaken each morning to a world filled with people who need a Savior. We carry the same good news; the same powerful message. Lord willing, we will share it by investing ourselves into the lives of those God permits, accepting them, loving them, engaging with them, even when it’s messy.
If we will be Jesus’ body, our search for those who are His cannot exclude those who aren’t good, or even those who aren’t like us, for if goodness and likeness determines the criteria for acceptance, then our Lord has no one to call His Church; no, not a one.