JOHN 8:6b-11 (NIV)
"But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 'Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.' Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
"At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' 'No one, sir,' she said. 'Then neither do I condemn you,' Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave your life of sin.'"
Am I willing to contend for those I don’t like?
Hmmm. That is not a very Christian question. Let me rephrase that.
Am I willing to contend for those who don’t love God?
There. That sounds a bit less ugly … puts it more on God than on my own personal preference.
Four years ago, out of desperation for security, I went looking for a job. Looking back I recognize that decision was probably made out of fear, but thankfully, God remains on his throne even when we try to take the wheel. I got a job working with at-risk teenage boys at a local high school. Between parole officers, drug dependence, and mental health issues, the boys I work with are a colorful lot. Frankly, I would not want most of them to have my address.
After years of working solely in Christian contexts, my immersion into a secular culture where over half the students were on free or reduced lunch was a much needed opportunity to flex some underused spiritual muscles. Working closely with kids from very different backgrounds than my own verified the statistics I had heard about the United States becoming a mission field. Loving the work helped me verify that God was in it with me.
The first couple of years were a rewarding adventure as I realized the spiritual authority I carried with me into this dark setting. I was energized as I practiced praying over the campus and kids, seeing what God would do. I was so drawn to the students, I even remember thinking I would do this job if I did not get paid!
Now, as time marches on, the shine is wearing off a bit. Liking the kids I know I am there to be Christ to does not come as easy as I wish it would at times. I find myself judging. I find myself in that crowd ready to throw stones.
Oh Lord, give me some shred of something to like and respect in this person. Throw me a bone. I am coming up with nothing on my own here! I don’t like the way they look, dress, talk, smell, or act, and liking someone helps so much when you are pouring out on their behalf. It is my job to help these kids succeed, but when it seems like I want it more than they do, I start to get cynical and fall into less than loving attitudes. Who is worth pouring into? Who is worth investing in?
Oh, am I glad that God does not do that with me!
When I listen, I find he is asking me if there is any sorrow in me about the sin in my own life, and whether I am able to have sorrow for the sins of others in my world without condemnation or judgment. Can I love them where they are and not just try to make them more like me?
Do I really believe he died to save “the likes of them”? When there is little I feel drawn to or understand, am I willing to contend?
I have the opportunity to be a bridge between the religious crowd and the actual Jesus. I have the opportunity to bring the gospel of peace to the chaos of their world. I have the opportunity to hold out the redeeming hope of God’s forgiveness and grace.
Will I? It is his invitation to me.
Oh Father, change my eyes. Give me your heart.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION
- Who (which person or group) are you most struggling to love, respect, or understand right now? In your heart of hearts, sit with the fact that Jesus died for them as much as he died for you and for those you most admire. Ask God to open your heart to this person or group.
- When investing in someone who needs help, it is often tempting to try to make him or her into our own image, to give him or her solutions that worked for us. How might you extend help to someone today in a way that is solely for their benefit?
This reading is a part of our "Small Feet Big Shoes" devotional series. You can also sign up to receive these meditations by email.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Colleen Brown has been with CRM since 1997. Over the years she has served with our Staff Development and Care Team and worked hard behind the scenes with CRM events and conferences. Colleen and her husband, Kevin, currently reside in Vancouver, Washington with their three daughters.