It’s no secret that I am a preacher’s kid nor is it a secret how strict the environment was I grew up in. In all the splendor and chaos combined, its no wonder my life was a total mess when I left for college. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were wonderful people and loved God and their family and they made sure we were loved and taken good care of and they did their best to raise us right, the way they knew how. But I grew up in a Pentecostal atmosphere, one that was very strict and full of legalism and I cannot begin to reiterate the many times I was told by different people that I was going to hell for this and that. Every thing that could be deemed a sin, was indeed deemed a sin. It wasn’t until God removed me from such chaos and taught me the truth and taught me more about Himself outside a church setting than I learned growing up in church, and that’s when my life changed drastically.
Being a Christian was something I took for granted and felt like I was automatically Christ-like because I was in church every time the doors were opened. In my youth, I was told who I could and could not hang out with. If you were not a Christian, then I was not allowed to go near you. If you were a gay person, I could not even speak to you. If you smoked cigarettes or drank liquor, that was a big no-no. My life was stained with “holier-than-thou” and I wasn’t anything near being holy myself, just a false pretense, a young soul locked in mortal struggle every single day of my life. In a way, I felt more like the beaten man in a ditch who was left for dead alongside the road in Luke chapter 10. Most church services were marked with absolute silence for me when I would hear how Jesus sat with a Samaritan woman at the well, or when He sat in the very dust with a woman who could not lift her head from shame after being caught in adultery. I remember hearing about Jesus calling down a thief in the form of a Tax collector from a sycamore tree and going to his house for lunch one day.
It seemed to me His (Jesus) choice of company made many of the high and mighty, holier than thou leaders during that time very upset and Jesus taught a very simple yet notable lesson for those who put Him under a microscope. Matthew 9: 12-13 (NIV) tells us, and this is Jesus speaking; “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Somewhere along the way we got it wrong! We didn’t go “into the world” rather, we saved ourselves from a bad name by secluding ourselves to only ourselves, and from the world. I asked the question then and still ask it today, “how can we be a witness to the lost when we have fully immunized ourselves from sinners to begin with? Who are we suppose to be a witness to when we are reduced to a circle of people just like us or better yet, just like the Pharisees?
I have seen with my own eyes people who desperately needed God come to church dressed like a hooker only to be asked to leave because of the way they were dressed. I’ve seen drunks and drug addicts come in only to be ridiculed in the altar where they stood asking Jesus for help. But because their breath wreaked of alcohol, or they weren’t acting quite like we thought they should act in a church setting, we doubted their sincerity even though they made the effort to walk down to the altar during an altar call. The sick came, and were ridiculed by the spirit of the Pharisees. It sickens me to the core how many professed Christians are so NOT like Jesus Christ.
During Jesus’ time on earth, He made it a point to correct this line of faulty thinking. He made a statement that in my opinion is the most important statement in the New Testament. It’s actually a commandment. Matthew 22: 37-40 (NIV), ” Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.” I believe it is in our nature to avoid situations and people that make us uncomfortable. If you read about the good Samaritan in Luke 10: 30-37, you will find that it was fear that made a priest and a temple assistant ignore a beaten man in a ditch on the side of the road. But who finally showed up to help the poor man in need? An outcast! Someone who stopped to check on the beaten man and even went as far as seeing to it that he would have a place to stay and to heal from his wounds. That person whom we know to be the “good Samaritan.”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is so much to learn from that statement. Our neighbor? Our neighbor with different religious beliefs. Our neighbor with different moral beliefs. Our neighbor who is a rebel. Our neighbor who drinks, who snorts lines, who commits adultery, that neighbor who is your enemy. How can you love a neighbor when you think you are too Christ-like for them? To be Christ-like would be to go to them and love them and do good to them. To sit with them and cry with them. To learn what and why they choose to do what they do. You have no idea the pain and struggles these folks have that drive them to the very things we detest. I know this for a fact because I became one of them. If you know me, you know I am friends with gay people. I am friends with alcoholics and drug addicts, those who do not live the way those of us in Christ live. I am even friends with known witches. I follow Jesus according to the example He set and the words He taught.
Following Jesus is not easy! It wasn’t even easy for Jesus when He was among us on this earth. I feel this next scripture sums up what we are commanded to do. Matthew 28: 19-20 (NIV) ” Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” Go change the world! You cannot be the salt of the earth, nor the light on a hill if you are not out there among the smelly sheep who need you to rescue them from their “ditch.” We need to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ even if that means going into uncomfortable places and being around people who are not like you. Recently, I have found a way to break free from my comfort zone to witness to others, and that’s by sharing my arts as gifts with a hand written message of the good news of Jesus Christ. This was done during lockdown, after midnight when no one was watching. I took wrapped gifts and left it on the door of every neighbor in my area. I don’t say this for accolades or to be noticed, I say this because sometimes we just have to be creative. Now? I will speak to anyone face to face and tell them about Jesus because time is short and I believe we are at the end of the age. I share on social medias, etc., anyway God provides me to share the good news I share it.
My final thought is that if we step out of our own comforts we will be stepping out in faith and into God’s will just like Jesus did. My friends, there is absolutely nothing as fulfilling and exciting than following the Path Jesus took.