Culture hides much more than it reveals, and strangely enough what it hides, it hides most effectively from its own participants. Years of study have convinced me that the real job is not to understand foreign culture but to understand our own. I am also convinced that all that one ever gets from studying foreign culture is a token understanding. [To study another culture] is to learn more about how one’s own system works.
Edward Hall, “The Silent Language”
For sometime now I have had this picture on my desktop background with the quote from James in Acts 15:
“It is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles”.
Of course this picture might be a bit extreme for your situation, but it is very applicable for Maria and I. The challenge before us is not to put obstacles and walls between this man and Jesus! We need to be continually filled with the grace and truth of God to be able to “pitch out tents” right in this man’s backyard (insert your own picture!).We need to “rub shoulders” with the poor and the needy, or the rich and the mighty as Jesus leads us.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
Everyday, for three years, Jesus ate, slept, played and prayed with His disciples. The Word of God became flesh and bone so that He could dwell among us. The word “dwelt among” from John 1:14 is really better translated “pitched his tent”. Jesus, therefore, is our Supreme Example to “pitch our tents” among people in the same way.
I just love the image of Jesus cooking His disciples breakfast on the shores of Galilee after His resurrection. Broken and defeated Peter goes back to what he knows best: fishing. We find Jesus standing – by dawn’s early light – on the beach asking if they had caught anything. Of course they hadn’t. Jesus tells them to cast their nets on the right side and their nets are shortly bursting at the seams. Jesus slips off to the side, prepares a charcoal fire and cooks His own fish for His friends. John records it this way: Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” (John 21:12) This must be one of the most mundane verses in the whole Bible, yet one of the most endearing!
Oh, brothers and sisters, if you find a leader (or leaders) like that stick to him the rest of your lives. Like Peter, we need to throw on all our clothes, jump into the water and swim a 100 yards to our dearest Friend. Even in the midst of great failures and faults, Jesus’ tent was pitched right by their sides. “He loved them to the end…” the Apostle John tells us – and he should know; scholars propose John outlived most of the other 11 Apostles by 30 years!
The Apostle Paul picked up on this aspect of Jesus’ life and proclaimed to the church in Thessalonica: “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake… We were gentle among you, like a nurse taking care of her children.” (I Thess. 1:5; 2:7) Paul’s message did not change over the years either, as we witness later in Ephesus: “You yourselves know how I lived among you all the time from the first day.” (Acts 20:18)
What I am trying to express through this letter is that we need to make a very deliberate effort to live with (among) people, both believer and unbeliever alike. For too long the church has had a poor reputation as being distant and far removed from normal life. Like the often heard quote: “Church is the last place on earth I would ever visit if I needed help”. This is an unacceptable situation!
Jesus- a friend of sinners – is our Model and He passed it on to His followers, who in turn passed it on again. It is time we take up the challenge and pitch our tents in other people’s backyards! It will cost us everything just like our Savior, who “emptied Himself” for our fullness.
Yours for the Least in the Kingdom,