We all desire to reach the world, especially those that inhabit our own communities. We desire to reach the lost, the unloved, and the forgotten. However, is it possible to reach those people and talk to them without some sort of preconceived notion or prejudice about them? Will our prejudice get in the way of initiating a conversation or even approaching them in the first place?
I have a desire to reach teens, any teens, really-- drug addicts or youth group student leaders-- I'm not picky! With that, I have this wild dream that I could connect with the teens that hang out in "Old Town" Fort Collins.
Sounds like a good idea, right? Well, let me paint you a picture...
I am a college student and dress on the more conservative, slightly boring side. By no means am I making a very bold statement with my clothing, hair, and makeup options. The teens that hang out in Old Town are what I would describe as "punk/goth." I'm not too keen on my lingo, but the kids wear all black, there seems to be metal involved in every part of their clothing, their hair is not only dyed but styled in "crazy" ways. They wear extreme makeup, including the guys-- there was one guy who had put makeup on his face (I want to say he used eyeliner...) to make his face look very freaky-clown-like! Needless to say, I did not approach the "clown." He actually scared the crap out of me. I'm sure the guy was really nice, or at least could get along with others because he was there with a group of friends. But all I could think about was, "he must be trying to make a statement. his family must be messed up. he must do drugs. he must be going to get drunk after this. he must be angry. he must hate life..." The thoughts were endless.
And yet, they have no basis. It's all based on how he looks and what I think about when I see him. Is there any truth to it, possibly. But that's impossible to know for sure just by looking at him. Could I have put all of those prejudices about him out of my mind to be able to talk to him? Could I have reached him? It doesn't help either that I am a very big introvert and extremely shy when it comes to talking to people I don't know, especially random strangers in public, but I'll never know because I didn't even try. He very well could have told me to f*** off, but who knows, maybe the one thing he needed was to talk that night...
Removing the fact that I'm terrified of strangers, I have started really looking at who I interact with, how I interact with them, and continuing to try to stretch my comfort bubble. If I want to reach people, I have to actually reach out. Just being there is a step, but just sitting there like a bump on a stump accomplishes nothing.
When I think about who Jesus hung out with, it was the unloved, the broken, and the forgotten. He had no trouble approaching them and talking to them. I believe he had a very strong sense of love and appreciation of those people and his love for them overwhelmed any possible fears or apprehensions about talking to certain people. Yes, people talked about him spending time with "sinners," but he didn't care. His purpose was to love them and he did that no matter what the cost. And as a result, people loved him back! Jesus was the ultimate bubble-buster!
We must look at who we are interacting with-- is it just the people we already know or know through a friend? Or are we really taking the time to really reach out to people and show them raw, untainted love? I am definitely writing this for myself, that's for sure. I would just as soon sit at home and put in a movie and not go out and reach anyone. You can't meet anyone if you don't even leave your couch. I might not be at all effective initiating anything with the "clown," but what about the girls he was with? They were just as hard-core looking as he was! I might not be able to relate to them by where they come from, but hey, you never know what you might have in common with someone until you start talking. Or maybe you might become more of a mentor, or even become a friend. Taking the risk is the only way to know for sure. And we must also approach them without some sort of agenda or prejudice that they need to be "saved."
So who am I to judge their appearance and try to determine who they are as people, let alone their salvation! Just love people and get to know them on a deeper level. Reach out to the people of your community, love the people Jesus would not have hesitated to love and be seen with!