When I was in high school, we had at least one foreign exchange student each year. Typically, people were very excited and eager to get to know them. Every once in a while, if they looked/seemed “really” different, people would shy away from them until they got to know them (sometimes “getting to know them” meant watching others interact with them).
Do you know what it’s like to be the different one?
I do, at least a little. I was the exchange student a few times, and I can remember sitting in class and the teacher saying something to me… Even though I knew the language, I wasn’t as fluent as everyone else, and the way they spoke made it hard to pick up on what was being said. I didn’t know what she said, but I tried to reply anyway. Everyone laughed. I was so embarrassed. I don’t think they were making fun of me, but my answer had to be funny considering I wasn’t sure what was said to begin with.
I remember appreciating those who made a point to welcome me and sort of take care of me while I was on my adventures. When things were difficult, I felt encouraged. They would remind me everything was going to be ok, give me a hug or pat on the back.
It’s easy to pass judgment on people. I think we all do it in some ways. Without knowing them, it’s easy to find something about what they’re wearing or doing that forms an opinion in our minds. Not all of our opinions are necessarily bad. I’ve found myself thinking, wow, they must be wealthy or she just looks like she’d be nice…
But it’s still judging without knowing. Like Ken said this past weekend, we should want more people that aren’t like us to come to church. We want those people who are trying to figure things out. They may look like us, they may not. That doesn’t matter. The point is we welcome everyone. We promote the gospel to everyone. We desire everyone to hear the good news of Jesus. It’s the best news anyone could ever receive. Why not share it with the whole world?
Easier said than done, I know. But you see the point. We need to do better. We need to be diligent.
I invited someone to church who was a drug addict in their previous life. It’s good to get the invitation out there. Invite someone to come with you so they aren’t alone. We all need Jesus. It doesn’t matter who we are or who we were. We’ll never be good enough on our own.
As Ken mentioned, if asked, most of us would say, yes, I believe in Jesus. I serve Him. But do our lives reflect this belief?
I remember that question hit me hard one day. I realized, no, certain things I was doing didn’t reflect that. I’m a people-pleaser. I like to be everyone’s friend. I like connecting with others and finding common ground. But I struggle because I find myself accepting certain behaviors because I want to be liked. Or I say things I normally wouldn’t, but when I’m with this particular person, I do because that’s how they talk. I want them to think I’m in with them.
I was trying too hard to please people. I didn’t once think about if what I was doing was pleasing to God. That was a scary thought when I realized it. I cared more about what my neighbor thought than what God thought. After all, if I didn’t adjust my actions to fit in with them, I could lose what I worked for…
Imagine if we felt this way about God. Imagine what it would be like if everyone decided they were going to live to please God… To adjust their behavior so it was clear where they stood… To stand strong… To refuse a compromise.
We’re only human, so we’ll never be perfect, but if you’re like me, you’ve realized you’re making too many excuses.
Today is the day to stop. Today is the day to get our priorities straight. Let’s live to please God. Let’s invite someone to church. Let’s look for opportunities to come alongside someone. Instead of keeping our eyes down when we’re in church or out in the community, let’s keep them open. Keep them open because you never know who God will send your way.