Take a moment to inventory your friends list. Not the one on Facebook full of people you barely know; I’m talking about your friends you communicate with regularly. Do you have it?
What are they like? Do they function at a similar economic level as you? Do you frequent the same places for fun? Do you have similar moral and religious beliefs? Are you roughly the same age?
When was the last time you spent an extended period of time with people vastly different than you?
Some people hesitate to surround themselves with people of questionable morality or intentions. They are afraid that doing so will be a sign of condoning such behavior. Some are afraid that doing so will cause them to fall into sin (a worthy concern). Yet who did Jesus spend time eating and fellowshipping with?
Over and over we see Jesus with people who aren’t religious. They aren’t moral. In fact, they are the people looked down on by others. They are the people with bad reputations. They were the people used as examples by the religious leaders. Yet Jesus went directly to them – not to preach at them, but to love them.
But how can we love someone so blatantly different than us?
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Jesus had compassion on the crowd. He didn’t look down on them in pity. He saw them as lost and helpless, and he hurt for them. They needed love first – then guidance. They needed acceptance – then deliverance. They needed true interest from him – then transformation.
Jesus wouldn’t have been the great game-changer of history if he had gone around lambasting everyone for their blatant disregard for the law of God. No one would have listened. Instead, he loved people. He loved them in spite of their anger, lying, fornication, ignorance, betrayal, distrust, immorality, etc. He loves us in spite of our humanity. Maybe he loves us because of our humanity.
Maybe you need to hang out in a place that is uncomfortable for you. Not just once. Hang out there often enough for people to get to know you and you to know them. And just love them no strings attached.
It’s hard sometimes.
When you’re surrounded by drunks it’s hard. When people are spewing immorality it’s hard. When someone walks up displaying their alternative lifestyle it’s hard.
But it’s right to love them.
Sometimes the hardest thing isn’t being there. Sometimes the hardest thing is keeping your mouth shut when you want to get preachy and share some superior moral wisdom.
But when they see you genuinely love them, you may have more than ample opportunity in the future to share the love of Jesus with words because they saw his love in your actions.