He was standing outside the grocery store. Spiked hair, piercings on his face, and dressed in all black. I was carrying Ethan, who was just four years old. Emily trailed behind with a friend. As I approached him I noticed that in the dark colors of his exterior were the most beautiful and stunning blue eyes. His eyes were soft and conflicted with such an abrupt exterior. Ethan wanted to touch his hair. I approached this beautiful young boy, maybe 16 years old, and asked if my son could touch his hair. He smiled and said yes. We talked about his piercings and he smiled to tell a little of his story. Smoking his cigarette, he laughed when I purposely started coughing and choking. I said, "young man you are to young to be into that smoking thing." I leaned in and told him, "your heart is soft and know that Jesus loves you." He smiled at me and squeezed Ethan's hand and said, "thanks little boy." We then went into the grocery store. For almost six years I think back on this moment outside a grocery store. As we went into the grocery store, Emily's friend said, " I can't believe your mom talks to people like that."
"People like that." Who did Jesus talk to as he walked from one place to the next? Who did Jesus come to save? Was His blood shed on the cross for a specific group of people? This is what I truly do not understand about some "Christians" today. Christ followers. This young girl with Emily grew up in the church, and even then her response was a familiar one. I am a little odd. I know I have been told this when I make a choice to spend time with "people like that." People like what?
What kind of example are we to our children when we move away from those who may be different than how we look, live, or act? How do we show love, and be on mission in our every day lives? Do we need our church to provide the missions for us, to give us permission, to endorse an opportunity to be a mission? Maybe some of our own churches turn away to "people like that". We are not like them, so we are uncomfortable, do not know what to say, and would not want our own children to see "people like that" for fear they may become like that too.
A couple of weeks ago, our pastor spoke on the story of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10. A familiar story. One I grew up in Sunday School hearing over and over. Each time a very good reminder "to be a good neighbor." For the first time, since I heard this story, a different message was spoken into my heart. It was not by the pastor speaking of the character of the Samaritan. I sat and listened and earnestly wrote down the points about the character of the Samaritan spoken by the pastor. Then there were no more points to write. Yet God, more profoundly than ever spoke to my heart that next point. It was the unspoken nature of Christ lived out by this Samaritan. Hmmm.....the "unspoken nature of Christ." I am not mincing words, or splitting peas to understand what God was reminding me of, and how God has lead my heart for years. Leading my heart when away from church, away from my church community, away from the circles of church ladies and away from the weekly teachings at church, as amazing as they are.
Not once in the story, as the Samaritan's behavior is accounted for, does it say he spoke about Jesus. He did not open his mouth and share with the beaten man the love of Jesus. He did not throw him on his donkey and tell him something like..."after we get you well, you are coming to church with me buddy." He did not say, "people like you, need Jesus. Let's get you cleaned up and dress you in more appropriate attire." It's only a short story spoken by Jesus. A lawyer stood up and put him to the test, saying, "Teacher what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25)
As Christ followers we adopt the heart of Jesus. He presses on our hearts to be like him, so that when we meet others who do not know him, they know something is different about you. When you assemble a group for a dinner party, inviting people into your home do they see Christ in you? When you are walking into a grocery store, do you move away quickly from "people like that?" Do you take the gifts God has blessed you with and teach others, and share with others and bring your "neighbors" around? We do not need permission from church to be on mission for Christ. Why would I make a statement like this? The Samaritan was on a journey, going from point A to point B and it was his heart, the heart of Jesus to come alongside this wounded man. Others who had gone before him, kept walking. Why did they keep walking? "they passed by on the other side of the street and kept walking" (Luke 10:31,32)
She wanted to have a playgroup. She wanted to invite her friends from church, and some neighbors, and her friends who did not know Christ. So she asked the church if she could do this? The church thought it was a great idea, but would not endorse or support the idea as a church event. So she did nothing. He wanted to start meeting with "people like that." He went to the church and asked if they could help him set up a place and a time for "people like that." The church thought it was a terrific idea but said, "no we could not help or host". And so he did nothing. They have such a great idea, they have the resources, the place and many who want to come along and bring those who do not know Christ around. They went to the church with this great idea. The church thought it was a great idea, but the church said, "no". So, we shrug and believe that if the church does not come around our hearts for ministry in these various ways we can not be used by God. The church? Why to we get our panties in a wod when the church does not extend it's support for what GOD puts on our hearts.
This Samaritan Man did not need to have his church telling him what was the right thing to do. The priest just kept walking, does that priest represent the church as a whole, the body. Do we keep walking, because we do not have the support we think we must have to be that person who comes alongside "people like that?" I have to admit, I get my own panties in a wod sometimes because this idea for a great ministry. Three years ago I had this great idea that God put on my heart. I have watched this ministry grow and grow and I have seen more people ask me questions about God in the midst of what some may think is the most Godless places. I have seen some of the criticisms in this ministry God put on my heart. I am sure if I went to the church they would smile and say, nice idea Elizabeth, but no. I never did go to the church. I just prayed and asked God to direct me. Today, almost three years later music.passion.hope continues to bring musicians together. Musicians who love Jesus with passions I learn from. Musicians who play in pubs, on the street corners, and whatever venue we can schedule in Portland.
He looked funny and smelled of alcohol and he sat right next to me. She sang a song called "Give me Jesus" in a popular pub. The place was packed out. He leaned over and said, "she is not like the other musicians I have seen. There is something beautiful about her, and about those words. I don't know Jesus, but after hearing her sing those words I want to know him." Tears filled my eyes. Another musician played a fiddle, and again he leaned over towards me, a total stranger, he said, "I have never felt more love than this moment, and I thought booze was my love." This stranger who did not know Jesus did not have to be brought into a church event to meet Jesus. He was sitting in a pub. Who is that broken person on the side of your life, the road, the grocery store, the bus, the coffee shop. Does that person see Jesus in you? Do you need the church to be able to be Jesus to that broken and lost person? Do you need the church to endorse your heart for ministry? No. Our church and our church community is our big family, and there are times when they do come along to help out, but their "no" should not be your "no" to God. Truth be known if I went to my home church and said I wanted to lead a music ministry in the city of Portland they would laugh at me and I would laugh along. I am just a stay home mom to five kids, with some grown. What do I know about music? I would not be offended at all, because my church is not responsible for the ministries God puts on my heart. I would love if they grabbed hold of this idea and would be tickled, but their no, (which I never did get because I was not dependent on the church for what God was working out in my heart)would not have kept me from moving forward with music.passion.hope.
What is your unspoken nature of Christ lived out by YOU, the Samaritan?
What has God put on your heart by simply loving and honoring Him? How are you living this out each day? My unspokens play out in the various roles I have as a wife, mother, and lover of music. God has taken away any fear of approaching a beautiful young boy with piercings, and big spikes in his hair. God has given me His eyes to see the heart of a person who does not know Him. I do not need the church's permissions or endorsements to follow Him.
Promise me something. Promise me that you will no longer hold the church captive to your disappointments of not meeting the needs of ministry on your heart. Instead go, and allow God to use you to develop that ministry in the circles you live in. Promise me that you will not walk past that "person like that." Rather than stepping away, walking on the the other side of the road, use that smile that radiates Jesus and say hello, ask a few questions, buy a cup of coffee and give of yourself more than you have before.
Blessings dear Friends as we learn and grow more in what it means to follow Jesus, Elizabeth