His countenance was fallen, his spirit broken, and the look in his eyes was childlike as if he had no control, helpless. “It’s like they’ve already written me off, already judged me. They didn’t even give me a chance to prove myself. They didn’t even want to get to know me.”
All I could do was stare back, my own spirit utterly broken. These people, the evangelicals around me, they are my family. I felt it in that moment, a terrible time to feel these things; I felt the family bond. I was sad to be a part of them at that moment. But I felt the belonging strong as ever just the same. I had no idea why, for everything in me jerked away from the majority’s judgment; yet, still, I was one of them.
I believe that we evangelicals are doing a great job getting our feet wet, inching out into “the unknown” and befriending “sinners” – those supposedly unlike us (ha – we’re all in this sin boat together, we’re the same). A better way to put it would be inching out into “the unknown” and befriending people with different faiths and different worldviews. I say “getting our feet wet” because we’re nowhere near out of the boat. Because when one of us loves a little too dearly, draws these new friends too closely into his or her heart and life and speech, it all falls apart (“it” being the support of the majority of the evangelical community). Apparently when one of us loves too dearly, we cross over a line that makes most evangelicals, the ones who had previously been a shaky but somewhat stable support system, drop everything, drop the happy, supportive face, and start calling our new friends “others” and start theologizing and start staring at us with those pleading eyes, the ones that beg us to come back from the dark side, they’re scared we’re falling away. When we’re anything but.
Duane Elmer’s Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility is a required text for a class that I’ve found to be utterly boring until last week. Last week’s assigned reading fell to Chapter Four, and it stunned, mind-blew, shocked, and convicted me; I loved every minute I spent reading it. Elmer includes David Schuringa’s commentary on Luke 15:2 in this chapter. Read it with me:
“Why did it disturb the religious leaders that Jesus ate with ‘sinners’? To eat with someone is an important symbol of fellowship. And in those days, the Jews had a rule: one is not to have such fellowship with outsiders until they are changed.
If and when outsiders came to repentance, and when they had proven they were sorry by acting like insiders, the Jews could join with them and eat with them – and not a moment before. After all, God’s people had no business mixing with unbelievers, right?
Jesus appears on the scene with a new approach. He introduces a brand-new idea. He connects with sinners before they repent, before they change . . .”
What I’m suggesting is really, then, nothing new. Actually, I’m not suggesting. I’m pleading with you with all that it is for me to be equally human and evangelical: Let people in. Let people, all sorts of faith-full and otherwise, deep into your heart. Love them hard. Let them be some of your closest friends. Allow them to teach you beautiful things, for it is no feat for God to speak through those who don’t think the same way you do – it’s just a thing he does in general, that’s it, point blank. Let them be human. Let them in.
Elmer says, “Openness is the ability to welcome people into your presence and make them feel safe.” Yes. And I want them to actually BE safe too.
Elmer’s purpose in this book is to relate servanthood to missional living in cultures that are foreign to us. But I believe these concepts apply to everyday life within our “home-y” culture too. Again, read with me: “Practicing openness in the new culture will require that we change. Miroslav Volf uses the term embrace when speaking of welcoming others into our presence. Then he says, ‘The will to give ourselves to others and ‘welcome’ them, to readjust our identities to make space for them, is prior to any judgment about others, except that of identifying with them in their humanity.’”
Let us make space in our hearts, deep inside, for other human beings. Let us live human, and let us allow others to live human, and let us identify with them in their humanity. Let us welcome them and make them feel safe because they actually are safe, and may our heart-bonds be home to them and to us, equally. Let us love. And when it’s shocking to our evangelical senses, let it be – for Jesus is shocking to us too.
February 3 Joy Dare: 3 Gifts Found in Writing
1. Psalm 126 & my sermon notes from this morning
2. The entirety of Chapter 4 in Elmer’s book mentioned above
3. Soul Detox: “Not only should we speak life-giving words to others, but we should also speak them to our circumstances and ourselves. The toxic words we speak to ourselves can be some of the most dangerous.”
February 4 Joy Dare: 3 Gifts Found When Bent Down
1. Some of the leaves on the ground that still have crunch
2. Good-lookin’ items on sale at Target
3. In the sense of “bent down” as “being brought low,” the truth – which is almost always the opposite of my typically negative assumptions
PS. Have you noticed that Powerfully Quiet has a new theme? I have edited each of my posts to begin with the word “When.” This gives the feel that you’re getting right into one specific moment of my life when you read each post – and you are. I like the continuity that it brings as well. I hope you do too!