JP67: Uninvitable: What We Learn From Jesus About Loving People on the Margins

February 29, 2024

What do the Woman at The Well, Zacchaeus, the Woman With an Issue of Blood, and the Gerasene Demoniac have in common?  They had encounters with Jesus that changed their lives.

Their lifestyles and social status forced them into the deepest margins of society, isolating their existence from the institutional religious structure that Jesus revolutionized.  

Today, we might refer to people with such complicated backgrounds as uninvitable - someone for whom an invitation to “church” would be tone-deaf at best and a copout at worst.

Thankfully, Jesus modeled a way of building bridges to marginalized people that we can train ourselves to imitate.

Check out how Matthew summarizes the ministry pattern of Jesus.

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Mt 9:35–38.

Jesus demonstrated that people on the margins need a friend, an invitation to dinner and conversation at home, a place where love is shown and trust is built.  

This pattern of following Jesus is just as revolutionary and vital today as it was when Jesus walked the earth.  

And loving people on the margins begins with a lifestyle of going.

Going With Grace

If humanity were to be rescued, Jesus would have to revolutionize the religious enterprise of His day. Instead of operating from the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus practiced mobile ministry.  Hiring staff and establishing programs that emerged from the temple would not launch a campaign to reach the world.  

His method was movement, accompanied by loving compassion for people afflicted by a broken world.  His mission required Jesus to go into all the cities and villages around Galilee, where he modeled and taught a better way.

Going might include walking across the street to our neighbor's home.  Going also looks like inviting our neighbors for dinner and conversation where trust and friendship are built.  

Inviting the uninvitable to attend religious services is no substitute for going.  People on the margins of society need us to meet them where they are, where relationships lay a bridge to the Father.

Teaching The Good News

Jesus taught as He went, "proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom." His message was

good news to people living under the dual oppression of Roman occupation and a weighty, legalistic religious structure.

Jesus described this part of His mission by declaring, "He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives." Lk 4:18  Jesus focused the content of His teaching on how people on the margins could experience eternal freedom while living in an occupied land.

We help people build a bridge to the Father when our teaching is full of grace, compassion, and the good news of Jesus.

Holistic Healing

As Jesus went and taught, He healed every disease and affliction.  There was nothing beyond the power of Jesus to heal.  His going, teaching, and healing presented a new way of following the Creator while demonstrating God's earthly presence in Christ.  Jesus said He could only do what His Father was doing.  

And the same goes for us.  We can pray for God to heal, but the method and timing are in His hands.  We must believe that God still heals and empowers new generations of faithful laborers to follow His example.

Empowering Others

Jesus referred to His work among broken humanity as a plentiful harvest but with a shortage of laborers.  Jesus models the work of a harvester of souls and invites us to pray for more workers to join Him.  

To follow Jesus means that we follow Him into the harvest, training ourselves to serve as ambassadors of the grace of God to people who are near and far.  Disciples of Jesus go and make disciples.  

There’s another thing the Woman at The Well, Zacchaeus, the Woman With an Issue of Blood, and the Gerasene Demoniac have in common.  We most likely would not know their stories of redemption if not for Jesus pursuing, teaching, healing, and empowering them.

Who are the people around us who need the pursuit of a loving, compassionate friend so that they might have a story of redemption too?

Prayer:  Jesus, thank you for pursuing us most humbly.  In your love, you left the fellowship of heaven to connect with us on earth and make a way for us to be reconciled to the Father.  Teach us to go, teach, heal, and empower so that those in the deepest margins of society can find you.  Give us the type of love that leads us to exit the comfort of our homes like you exited the comfort of heaven.

Questions for Application:

1. Who are the unvinvitable people in your life?  What is the Holy Spirit saying to you about how to love them well?

2. What does it mean to edit your life so as to have time and margin to serve your neighbors?

3. Are there ways the Spirit is leading you to empower others to come alongside you in the harvest of souls?

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

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