When I was in high school, I made every effort to ostracize anyone who was different than me. Chalk it up to ignorance and a large dose of legalism in my home, but I made a point to choose only friends who held my beliefs. Anyone outside my world view was kept at arms length. I viewed them as little more than people I would attempt to persuade to my line of thinking.
I was the girl sitting in the bleachers telling kids how they would go to hell. I was the girl murmuring behind the backs of promiscuous students. Full of judgment, hellfire and brimstone. My bubble was designed to keep my comfort level satisfied and prohibit unsavory people from entering my safe haven.
Bubbles burst and reality comes swooshing in like an Arctic wind. We shiver and resist - but in all honesty, some of us need to feel the chill because we are too snuggled under our protective blankets to make any difference in the world around us.
Jesus NEVER played it safe! Jesus did not conduct ministry while insulated and isolated. No bubble for the holy King of Glory.
He was among the people. Touching the leper. Sparing the adulterer. Having lunch with the cheaters. And he spoke to them as the PEOPLE they are. The beautiful creation made in God's image. And the powerful truth is this: Because Jesus was so connected to the Father, He never compromised who He was when He loved others. Jesus Christ was a sharp pin in the religious bubble of the day and a soft embrace to the rejected and despised. He turned heads. He stopped people in their tracks!
When I experienced a season of selfish choices in my life that nearly destroyed me, I found my husband reaching down into the mud pit to offer me his hand. I expected rejection and received love in stead. The reality of Jesus living through my husband crashed over the walls I built. I was undone because of loving acceptance and forgiveness. Those unexpected responses changed my life. It changed MY LOVE RESPONSE to people around me.
Thankfully, God's love restored my marriage. Healing has been to the marrow. And my world expanded. I have a group of women who battle in the faith with me, but they are not the only people I "do life" with. Today, I am blessed with a diverse group of friends. Inmate. Atheist. Gay. Transgender. Prostitute. Addict. And they are not an agenda for me - they do not make up a human check list. They are truly my friends. I listen to them and love them. When I have lunch with my gay friend who wears more makeup than I do - complete with his leather pants and studded shirts - we turn heads. It may shock a few religious folks who know me from the church platform, but I am PASSIONATE about LOVING PEOPLE right where they are.
My marginalized friends will tell you - this is not the response they expected from a Christian. Their walls come down and love invades. The amazing conversations we have teaches me more about Jesus' love and life than any modern day sermon I hear piping from pulpits today. Sermons have their place - but the Bible comes to life when you live it outside the walls of the church, too. It is honest and raw and very, very real.
Living as Jesus means choosing to love ALL. Without strings attached.
Love is NOT BASED on people's response to us. Love is based on OUR RESPONSE to Christ. When the world sees believers LOVE... they will see the face of Christ. And the LIGHT of LOVE leads the way.
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." I John 4:7-12