Thursday, March 31, 2011

You're Surrounded!

Have you ever thought about who you surround yourself with? Who do you spend most of your time with? For many of us we spend most of our time surrounded by people just like us. People who look like us, who talk like us, who like things we like. Some of us surround ourselves with people we want to be more like. We want the chance to hang out with the man or woman everyone else seems to like. For guys it might be the guy who always has a great car and a membership at "The Club". We really want him to ask us to play a round of golf with him at "The Club" where we can be seen by all the right people. For ladies it might be another woman who always has the prefect shoes or the hippest hair-do (is that the right term?!) You would love to get a call from her asking you to go out to lunch where you can be seen by everyone. As I was reading last week I came across the following passage:
Mark 2: 13 - 17 - 13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. 15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
I had to stop and think about my own life and who I surround myself with. I am a 43 year old white dude with a good job who lives in a good neighborhood and for the most part I surround myself with 40 something year old white dudes with good jobs who live in good neighborhoods. Is there anything wrong with that? Not necessarily, unless I am truly trying to live my life like Christ lived his. Look again at the passage. Christ surrounded himself with many tax collectors and sinners. The word for sinners is the Greek word hamartōlos and it means all wicked men, specifically of men stained with certain definite vices or crimes. Not only was he surrounded with them he was eating and drinking (see Luke 5) with them (and no I don't think he had water with lemon). He did not just wave at them like the Pope or quickly say hello like a mega church pastor surrounded by his handlers, he spent time with them. He did this again in Luke 19 when he encountered Zacchaeus. Jesus said he was going to Zacchaeus' house and the people began to mutter that Jesus was going to eat with a hamartōlos. I believe Jesus had the same kind of meal with Zacchaeus that he did with Levi. A big party with lots of eating and drinking and tax collectors and sinners!

So what do we do with this? The answer is simple, we look for opportunities. Believe me, they are out there. The tough part is taking advantage of the opportunities. Maybe there is a "bad kid" who no one ever invites to their child's party. You could reach out. Maybe there is a poor kid in your child's school that you could invite to go on vacation this summer. Maybe there is an ex-con who works in the maintenance department at work you could invite to a good restaurant...seated at a good table! Maybe you could meet the garbage collectors out by the street with a couple of sandwiches and a couple of cold Cokes.

Look around at those who surround you, do you need to make some changes? I know I do.

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