The phrase our church family has been living by this past year or so is, “living among.”
Rather than trying to ‘convert’ people or ‘evangelize’ we are just trying to live alongside people, getting to know them and loving them.
I have always thought that the concept was pretty easy to understand. You spend time with people, you get to know them, understand them and be in a position to love and encourage them.
But recently, I’ve realized just how hard it truly is for us, as humans.
You see, it is in our nature to separate. To segregate. To classify.
A couple of things in the news have me thinking about this. One is the protests of lethal actions against black men by white police officers. The other is a story, local to me in Minnesota, about a state sports league making new rules for transgender students.
I am a straight, white female. I am not now, nor have I ever been black. I have not been harassed or discriminated against about the color of my skin. I have however, as a single teenage mother, been harassed and threatened by police.
I know that the majority of police officers are sincerely trying to be peace keepers in our nation, and I am grateful for them. But I also know that humans can have negative reactions to people based on senseless observations such as race, age, and gender, among other things.
With this knowledge, I can get a ‘glimpse’ of what some of the black population might be feeling in these situations.
To REALLY understand it better, and to increase my empathy, I would have to inject myself into the problem. I would need to find ways to include myself in the support of the black community, hopefully by befriending more black people. This would be the only way that I could sincerely start to learn and care about how they are feeling, and to learn how to react and support those around me.
The other situation has to do with transgender youth. I do not personally know any transgender people. Therefore I cannot possibly understand the inner turmoil they endure, feeling as though their anatomical gender does not match their inner mental one.
I can imagine that the ridicule they receive for being different from others around them surmounts any struggle I had as a teenage girl feeling awkward in the halls of my high school. I can imagine the difficulty their parents have, trying to support their child while at the same time trying to just figure the whole thing out. No parent wants to be the focus of their child’s future therapy sessions.
The only way that I can even begin to understand the issue, and these families, is to get closer to them. To seek them out and show them love and support. Even if that means elevating the person over the situation.
God gave us a good example in this area. I don’t think God ever had a time where He didn’t love us, but He did need to show us How to love each other, because we are slow, and we should all be riding the short bus.
Just over 2,000 years ago God decided to live among us, in flesh and blood. For Him, living among meant literally making His every day existence here. With us. Next to us. Relative to us. Neighbor to us. Friend to us.
He experienced the things we experience. He dealt with our temptations. He ate what we eat. He drank what we drink. He walked where we walk. He worked where we work.
He didn’t leave His condo on the upper east side to do a ‘mission’ with the less fortunate.
He became one of us.
Living among people is hard. Because people suck. Even Jesus didn’t ‘convert’ everyone He lived among.
As people we can’t expect living among to go smoothly, or perfect, even Jesus’ closest friends lied to Him! We can expect to get lied to, cheated, hurt, and more.
But if the end result is love. True love. Then I for one am happy to sign up. Even if it does sound horribly cheesy.
How About You?
Who are you afraid to love? How can you push past it?