Read Exodus 23:9; John 10:10-16; Hebrews 13:2
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)
The man sluggishly walked into the room. It was as if he was moving in super slow motion, as if time was moving moment by deliberate moment. Each step seemed an eternity as the man entered his way in and walked to the table across the room. He sat down, his tall, dark frame resigning itself to the cool, hard steel chair; his figure slumped forward as he put his head into his hands as if the weight of his head would come crashing down to the table without the support.
The tension in the room thickened the air like corn starch thickens juices of a cooked turkey into gravy. The man could feel the cold, glowering stares that were all pointed in his direction. He could hear whispers of hushed voices from across the room, people speaking as if they were talking about the deceased at a funeral.
“Who is that man?” one person whispers. “Dunno…never seen ‘im before” another voice responds. “But I don’t like the look of ‘im. He ain’t from around here, that’s for sure.”
“Son,” another man whispered, “he’s not one of us and that makes him dangerous, and in these times we can’t be too careful.”
The man sat there as the snickering judgments were passed from mouth to ear all around the room. But he paid no attention to them, he was just too exhausted; he had too much weighing down on him. All he could do was sit there, head cupped in his hands, and pray to God. He had traveled all day and he knew the road ahead would be long and arduous. After all, he was heading cross-country to be among those first responders to arrive in NYC after the attacks on 9/11.
While the above story is fictitious, there is an inherent truth in it. People fear what is unknown to them and what is more unknown than an outsider? What is it that makes us so resistant to outsiders? Even Jesus’ disciples were wary of the man who was exorcising demons in Jesus’ name. It seems natural, even instinctual, for us to want to distance ourselves from people who are outside our group. Whether they are from another culture, another race, another religion or, even more subtly, from another denomination within the same religion, people tend to want to exclude the outsider.
Yet, we find Jesus doing the opposite. In Luke 9:50, Jesus tells his disciples not to stop the man from exorcising the demons. He states that no one who is doing the work of God can be against him. In fact, the disciples should be rejoicing to see that this person is casting out demons. In John 10:16, Jesus also reminds his disciples that there are sheep who “are not of this fold.” In every aspect of Jesus ministry, Jesus surrounded himself with, and embraced, outsiders.
The Gospels are clear that God does not view anyone as being an outsider. Paul’s advocacy for the Gentiles to be included in the sacred Jewish covenant with God, points to the fact that God does not view anyone as being an outsider. In John 3:16, it says that God “so loved the world”…not “God so loved our group.” Thus, let us remember to resist the tendency to shun outsiders; by shunning outsiders we are, in actuality, shunning God.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
In the Kingdom of Heaven, the only “insiders” are the “outsiders”.
Lord, while I was an outsider, you still regarded me as your own. Open the eyes of my heart so that I may see your image in those around me, regardless of who they and whose group they do or do not belong to. Remind me that you are the one any of us truly belong to. Amen.