I have been thinking a lot recently about our country and the division that seems to be growing between people. It has gone beyond Republican and Democrat, and it has gone beyond the color or each of our skin. We have found anything and everything to divide over, it seems.
As I read through the gospels and look at how Jesus would have been handling this, I find that Jesus went across the divide. Jesus went to people who society viewed as unclean or as unworthy. Specifically, I am thinking of the stories of Matthew the tax collector, the woman at the well, and the demon-possessed man.
Tax collectors in Jesus' day were not liked as much as the IRS today. They would collect the taxes for the government but then they would add extra onto it so that they could keep it for themselves. Some of these guys were pretty low, but Jesus still took time to be around them.
Jesus found this tax collector named Matthew, and they became friends. In fact, Jesus called Matthew to be a disciple of His. Matthew followed, and today we read of his accounts of Jesus' life in the Gospel of Matthew. If Jesus would not have taken time to hang out with the marginalized in society, Matthew would not have been a disciple. (Mark 2:13-17)
Jesus also went against the social norms of his day. Not only did Jesus travel through Samaria, which was looked down upon, but he also stopped at talked to a woman at a well. In Jesus' time, for a man to talk to a woman without her husband, there was a huge no-no. Jesus knew that this woman did not have the best reputation in town, but he still took time to talk to her and tell her that God loved her. You can find the story in John 4:1-41.
The same goes for the demon-possessed man. No one knew what to do with him. He was so strong that he broke the chains that they tried to bind him with, and when someone came up to him, the demon-possessed man would beat them. Jesus took time to talk to him, Jesus even cast out his demons and told him that God loves him and cares for him. Then Jesus told the man to go home to his family and tell them what Jesus had done for him. (Mark 5:1-20)
Jesus cares about the marginalized people in society. He took time and went out of his way (to Samaria) to reach those people who society had deemed unclean and not worthy.
If you think about it, we have little Samaria's all over the country. Maybe we even have them right here in our little town of Prineville. Who is going to be the missionary to reach out to those who are marginalized? What would that look like right here in Prineville?
The Ascent had the honor and privilege of hosting a group of missionaries this past week. The Extreme Tour came to our little town to specifically reach these kids and young people. This group of missionaries travels all over the East and West coasts, stopping at small towns and putting on small events with musicians and athletes at the skate and bike parks. They take time to get to know the kids, to listen to their stories. They take time to show the love that Jesus has for them, to give them hope in this crazy time in our country. They take time to share the gospel of Jesus with them.
But the Extreme Tour can only do so much. They are only in town for a short period of time. As Christians, we need to continue to reach out to these marginalized people and support them and show them who Jesus is and continue the discipleship of teaching them about Jesus.
So, my challenge to you today is to take time and look past the dirty jeans and maybe ripped shirts. Look past the music that they listen to and the way that they talk and look at the person. Take time to get to know them and share stories with them. Let them know that Christ cares for them and so do we.
Tollie Rogers is the pastor at Ascent Christian Church. He can be reached at 541-362-1025.
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