On the Outside Looking In

image courtesy of the Sheldon Art Gallery
image courtesy of the Sheldon Art Gallery

The Outcast…The Marginalized…The Rejects.

I’ve been a part of their ranks.  I can tell you firsthand, it doesn’t feel good.

Left out…left behind…forgotten.

Maybe you’ve been there too.  Maybe you’ve been told you don’t look right.  Is it possible you didn’t dress right or have the right style?  It just so happens that you don’t make enough money or have enough clout or enough education or know the right people.  You’re on the outside looking in and it’s a very uncomfortable place to be.

I’ve been there.  I’ve had mistakes held over my head while the crowd left me behind.  I’ve heard the tail end of whispers when I approach.  I’ve felt the sting of betrayal and have been left with feelings of mistrust.  Let’s be honest.  We’ve all been left to wonder why people treat others the way they do.  Which is why I must ask…Why do we set people aside?  Why do we include some and not others?  Why are we not showing Jesus to whomever we meet, no matter who they are?

  • A new convert by the name of Richard came to worship service one morning.  He had recently given his life to Christ after being raised in a denominational church that taught falsehood and half-truths.  Richard was so excited about Bible study that he spent all of his free time preparing for the Sunday morning Bible class he attended.  One particular Sunday, Richard shared his understanding of scripture to the class that was wrong and misguided.  It wasn’t long before Richard heard the rumors.  People accused him of ignorance.  People were angry of the new ideas he brought to the class and began to ignore him during worship.  Sound a little far-fetched?  Just ask around long enough and you’ll find someone who’s been treated in the just the same way.
  • Or take Mike, a rough and tumble rocker with tattoos and a sketchy past.  The old Mike has changed though now that he’s found the Lord.  Sure, Mike is a little rough around the edges but he’s fired up to learn, to serve, to worship.  Mike shows up for his spot to serve the Lord’s Supper one Sunday morning wearing jeans, a t-shirt and disheveled hair.  But he’s eager to serve God right?  It shouldn’t matter what he wears.  Well, not according to the conservative members of his church.  They’ve always thought Mike to be a little strange.  But his clothing choice for Sunday mornings?  It’s just unacceptable.  Mike is approached after service and told politely that if he wants to serve on the table again, he needs to dress more appropriately.

A little too bold to be true?  Guess again.  Even in the church today, some are left on the outside looking in.

This same problem of exclusivity beset the early church as well.  The first Jewish converts thought it horrible that Peter converted Cornelius’ household.  Right up until Peter reminded them that it wasn’t their place to stand between others and God (Acts 10:1- Acts 11:18).  Jesus throughout his ministry taught the same lesson as well.  “Whatever you do for the least of these you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).  When we treat others the way we would like to be treated, it’s as if we were serving Christ himself.  Hospitality, equality, friendship, love, forgiveness.  No one should be left out from partaking of these blessings.  Money doesn’t matter.  Clothes don’t matter.  Power, prestige, and popularity?  They all don’t matter to God and they shouldn’t matter to us either.

I challenge you to look around.  Find the ones who are cast aside, the ones who don’t fit in and pull them close.  Did they hurt you?  Then forgive.  Are they awkward?  Treat them with respect anyway because in doing so, you’re treating them the way Jesus would.  Commit to leaving no one on the outside looking in.

-Joe

 

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