If Jesus was the most spiritually mature person to ever live, then he stands as the model for what a spiritual life looks like. He remained approachable to outsiders and the hurting.
Jesus made friends with those who were rejected by the crowds—the marginalized and the downtrodden, the poor and the diseased. The so-called sinners and tax collectors, even the prostitutes, found a friend in Jesus.
The people on the edges of life, those of us who are messy, the ones the church has the hardest time reaching and keeping—those are the very people Jesus gravitated to. Despite and against the criticism of the religious leaders, Jesus allowed his compassion for people to lead him into relationships of help and healing. And so Jesus poured his love out for the crack addicts, the strippers, the bookies, and the petty thieves of his day.
This is astounding when we consider that Jesus was sinless but constantly surrounded by sin and sinful people. Sin violently opposed his very character. Everywhere he turned, he saw the effects of injustice and hate. It would have been easy for Jesus to haul off and blast people for their mistakes. He had more right than anyone to take a political and moral stand, to picket on the street, to organize protests, and to publicly attack individuals. Rather than being filled with disdain, however, he was filled with love.
If Jesus was the most spiritually mature person to ever live, then he stands as the model for what a spiritual life looks like. He remained approachable to outsiders and the hurting. His life reveals to me that the more spiritually mature I am, the more approachable I will be to people who feel far from God. As my spiritual maturity increases, my approachability should increase.
It is a sad indictment that many outside the faith don’t feel as if they can approach Christians. In Jesus’ day, some of the least approachable people were the religious leaders. They reeked of self-righteousness and judgment. Yet Jesus’ life should give us pause. Let’s ask ourselves the following questions:
- Am I truly approachable to all kinds of people?
- Am I open to relationships with all kinds of people?
- Do I have the compassion of Jesus for those who are hurting or disillusioned?
- Am I compelled by compassion?
- Is my compassion evident to others?
Let’s not forget, though, that discipleship is not just a personal endeavor. It is designed to be lived out in community. When Jesus gave us the Great Commission, he wasn’t strictly speaking to individual followers but to the church.
As the body of Christ, we are to be about God’s business. So these questions and the implications of the answers must apply to our churches as well. Who and what do our churches exist for? Are they known as safe places for the broken and the confused? Are they places where it’s okay to not be okay? Are they places of hope and joy? As we maintain conviction of sin, are we teaching the good news, or are we teaching a spirit of condemnation under the law?
In short, how like Jesus is our discipleship and our community of disciples? If Jesus showed up, would he recognize what was going on as something he began?