A few weeks ago I was at church. I was sitting alone and enjoying the solitude, the worship and praise. Basically, I was just content. After the last opening song, the Pastor came to the pulpit and asked us to turn and introduce ourselves to one another. To be honest, I do not enjoy this part of the service. I am basically a shy person. Many do not know this as I hide it well. But, trust me, this “greet your neighbor” thing is HARD for me. I put a smile on my face, took a deep breath and turned to a group of women behind me. I put out my hand and smiled to…… empty air. They were busy with each other, chatting and laughing, it was obvious they had established a little group. They gave me a quick glance and kept on chatting.
In my younger years, being politely ignored like that would have truly hurt. But, to be honest, I was just relieved. I was in the middle of turning back to face the Pastor when a lovely woman, who is quite well known in the church, tapped me on the shoulder and hugged me tight. We exchanged greetings and she went on her way. What happened next is what inspired this post. The three ladies behind me, the very same ladies that had not even acknowledged my existence just moments before, tapped me on the shoulder. They each introduced themselves and then in almost complete union said, “You know HER.” I just smiled and said, “Yes, I do.” They all smiled at me with approval, and we then all settled in to hear the sermon. When service was over, one of the ladies even said, “Hope to see you next Sunday!”
On my way home from church I reflected on my encounter with this little group. Lovely woman, definitely devoted to the church, definitely kind to each other and definitely impressed by people they thought had some sort of influence or status. It was then that I realized I do not want to be in a group. I do not want to be a part of a group of exclusive, by invitation only, friends.
I want to be in a “non-group”. I want to surround myself with people that embrace everyone – not just some. I want to have friends that always have room for just one more. I do not want to be a groupie – lol. I want to be an anti-group – no invitation or approval required. Just come as you are. Be loved for you – not for your title, your wealth, your style, or for who you know.
I realized that day, that if we only accept people that can serve our needs, if we only make time for individuals that impress us with their worldly value, we will miss our true calling – to be the hands and heart of God.
The Jesus I know hung with the untouchables. He wasn’t part of the “in” crowd. He didn’t embrace the status of a person – he embraced the person. He recognized that God, his father, created each individual in His image and, as such, each one is precious and valuable and deserving of love and acceptance.
So, today I would like to challenge you to step out of your inner circle and remove those hidden fences. Build a gate in your group and open it wide. Embrace anyone that comes to the threshold – “un-group” yourself. Be the image of God in this world.