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Friday, March 4, 2011

What will people think?

"When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?'"
Mark 2:16 (NIV 2010)
At a function recently two choices faced me. Both concerned where to sit. Not that big of a deal, really. But it was. That day, I had to choose between where I felt most comfortable sitting, and where Jesus wanted me to sit. They weren't the same.
Normally when in this situation, I would look for a friend, or at least a friendly face. That day, except for a few family members who were surrounded by people, strangers faced me in every corner. My choice was between strangers who looked like me, and those who didn't.
It's not that they really looked like me, they just seemed like me on the surface – traditionally dressed, about my age, and talking about things I might talk about. Then there was the group outside on the back patio. I knew who they were, and they weren't like me. Their lifestyle choices were far from mine. Were they sitting outside because they didn't "fit" with the inside group? No one would have intentionally snubbed them, but they sat apart nonetheless.

Plate in hand, I stood beside the buffet table weighing my options. And I asked myself, "Where would Jesus sit?" Would He choose to sit inside with those like Him? Or would He be outside with those whose choices revealed a heart far from God? The answer was obvious; I headed for the back door.
"May I sit with you?" I asked. Smiles and nods greeted me. Immediately someone jumped to grab a chair, another introduced himself, and I was drawn into the lively conversation. The next hour flew by as we chatted and laughed about vacations, movies and community happenings.

They could have judged me for being obviously different from them, but they didn't. For that moment in time, they welcomed me into their group. As we parted ways, my mind imagined Jesus intentionally choosing to hang out with those shunned by the religious types. They welcomed His presence. In spending time with those far from God, He created quite a stir.

I can imagine a disciple or two trying to warn Jesus about the dangers of hanging out with "sinners." Perhaps they thought Him naive, or simply unwise. "What will people think?" some might have said. "Will others trust what we have to say after they see us having dinner with them?"
But Jesus didn't worry about what others thought. He didn't worry about His reputation being sullied by His choice of friends. Instead, He went out of His way to show acceptance and love to those who needed Him.
That's how I want to be. My choice of where to sit should expand beyond an hour at a reception – it should be a lifestyle of reaching out to those who need to know Jesus. Whether at church, at work,  morning, or  wherever we are at  there will be people far from God.
Each time I have a choice, the questions will be the same: Will I gravitate towards the known? Or where Jesus might go?

This reminds me of a time 20 years ago when we took a sort of unsavory character into our home. He now is walking with Christ and lives at a Ministry that ministers to others who were like him. Lonely and feeling unloved. We still talk and feel a love for one another that is uncanny. It only comes from above. Thank You Lord.

We are called to be set apart in many ways; we don't live like the world lives. But Jesus also said we are to be a light. In my experience, lighting a candle in a well-lit room doesn't make much of a difference. A candle in the dark, however, changes the scene dramatically.
So the next time we have a choice of where to sit, let's think about Jesus and go where He would choose.
Dear Lord, thank You for loving this broken and hurting world. You've asked me to do the same. Forgive me for those times I've chosen the safe route. I know those times have been based in fear, and concern for myself. Help me to be a woman who trusts You enough with her reputation that she's willing to sit where Jesus would sit. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

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