Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Aliens and Strangers


          It isn’t on the top of the New York Times best-seller list.  It isn’t featured on holiday book lists for Christian stores.  It is a topic that gets scant attention in church literature, and not much focus in a lot of sermons and preacher podcasts.  It isn’t much discussed in leadership team meetings, and might only get mentioned in the narthex after church in a gossip session, oops, I mean as a “prayer request.” I am talking about ministry to people who are "different". That is, the stranger, those that are not in the mainstream. It may be the depressed and withdrawn teenager, the gay individual, the one who is shunned for not being cool, or is just not "right in the head" in some way, the ones who dress differently, and, of course, the unattractive, the not very smart, the inarticulate, the social misfit, and sometimes even the handicapped. Or they might be actual persons from other cultures and nations. The list could go on. My point here is that in building a ministry, these people are usually not included. After all, we don’t perceive that they have anything to offer us.


          This is, quite simply, contrary to the gospel of grace that we preach. A persistent theme throughout Scripture is that of the alien. God told the Israelites to remember the stranger because they once were aliens in Egypt (Exodus 23:9; Leviticus 19:33). Jesus ups the ante by telling us to actively love such persons (Matthew 5:43, 22:39). Paul takes this further by exhorting believers to show hospitality, which is, literally, the love of strangers (Romans 12:13).

          Here are some questions that ought to penetrate our ministry paradigms: Am I in touch with my own strangeness and alien nature? Do I have the capacity to see the image of God in others very different from me? How can I become a voice for the voiceless? Will we struggle to be hospitable to all people?

           James said that true religion consists of caring for orphans and widows (James 1:27). The reason he points these two out is that, when we minister to these type of people, they have absolutely no means of reciprocating and giving back. So, here is grace at its finest: just as God in Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, so we can mirror the very character of the Lord in extending ministry with no strings attached to those who are in need.

          Perhaps we need a different evaluative grid of our personal and corporate ministries. How about if we base our measurements in grace? Who are the strangers God has placed in your life? How may you show hospitality to them? 

No comments:

Post a Comment