Thursday, 20 June 2013

The undesirables

I don't recall it ever saying in the Bible to only love the desirable and popular. Actually, I'm pretty sure Jesus said the exact opposite: the lowly, the poor, those on the outskirts, the unclean, those whose sins everyone knows about...

I'm going to take a leaf out of Pope Francis' book and get a bit annoying here - a bit uncomfortable. If you start to feel hot around the collar, take this as a hint from the Lord to take a long, hard look at yourself.

I hear it being preached about all the time at youth events: love thy neighbour, love the least of these, befriend that loner at school. In fact, I hear it being preached by people who I have personally witnessed doing the exact opposite. People who, in a public setting, have outright badmouthed others and projected their distaste of a person on the rest of the on-listeners.

Words can be poisonous- bad words about another person in particular. I cannot count the amount of times where I have heard someone speak poorly of another and how my perception towards that person has changed. Suddenly I notice that annoying habit, bad breath or their daggy clothes.

I come from a background of being subject to schoolyard bullying. What the experience has taught me, among many things, is how it feels to be an outcast.

Can you imagine, that for a reason unbeknownst to you, you are a reject, a loser, an outcast? That everyone around you has shunned you and you try desperately, oh so desperately to find someone, anyone who can validate your worth and show you love? Every day you face, you face alone. You belong nowhere. You miss out on invites to parties. People fall silent when you enter a conversation. They avoid your eye contact in fear that you will strike a conversation with them and they will be stuck talking to you and someone may see. So, you take advantage of the checkout lady who routinely says "hi, how are you today?" You quickly invite yourself to any Facebook event that was accidently left on "public" before the creator realises and changes it to "private". You cling to anyone who takes pity.

Can you imagine this life?

Now perhaps it is a perception problem - nasty rumours that led people to believe that you're not the type of person they want around them. Perhaps there is something particularly confronting or irritating about your personality that others cannot seem to get past in order to spend enough time with you to appreciate the person that you are. Perhaps you are a bit socially awkward and people just don't know what to say or how to hold a conversation with you.

Whatever the reason, being treated as an outcast is unacceptable. It is contrary to what we have been commissioned by God to do. We go on and on about sharing the love of Jesus, preaching the Gospel message, and evangelising the world. But what about the world we live in? Our local parish community, our youth group, our wider group of friends? Do these people not need the love of Jesus, just because they're already "coming to stuff"?

Why do you think they come in the first place? Because Christians will at the very least give them a friendly smile or humour them by a polite "hey, how are ya?" before quickly wrapping up the conversation and moving on. That sliver of love is more than the rest of society will give them, so of course they keep coming back. Let me ask you this: when was the last time you greeted them with a genuine, "HEY!! You're here! Awesome. So, how are you? What's going on in your life?"

Now think for a moment about those "undesirables" - list them off in your head. Picture their faces. You cannot deny they exist. Take a moment to do so now.

If you are reading this sentence without having done so, this is your second and final chance - if you don't, you may as well not even bother to read the rest of this post because you're not ready to be the person Jesus has called you to be.

Step One: Ask yourself why they are considered (in your eyes) to be undesirable
Step Two: Try to imagine life from their perspective
Step Three: Think of one positive thing about them

It takes 30 days to break a habit. Your challenge is to think about one positive thing about these people every day for 30 days. If you run out of things, it means you don't know them well enough - so go and get to know them! I will admit that as I write this, in my head I am thinking, "dangit, now I have to do it too." I guess it's not called a challenge for nothing.

If everyone started to do this: welcoming and befriending the undesirable, then no one would be undesirable in the first place. True, all would still be different and some easier to get along than others, but all the same, you would be free to love and be Jesus to all without fear of rejection by association. The newbie who didn't know that the person was undesirable would not get "caught" in a conversation for forty-five minutes. There would no longer be hushed voices about the post-Mass Maccas run.

Remember this: there is nothing wrong with the undesirable. There is only something wrong with the person who sees them as undesirable.

God bless,


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