Let's face it - no one is going to like hanging out with everyone. There is always one or two people that, even as adults, we'd just rather not deal with. The thought of inviting him over makes us slump our shoulders like a pouting child. The concept of having her in the planning meeting makes us want to change the meeting time and "forget" to tell her. The thought of having to spend every day working on a project with him makes us seriously consider hanging out with someone who has the mumps so we can call in sick for a couple weeks.
And, we tend to transfer this attitude to our children, allowing them to think it's acceptable to push someone away. We see a child sitting by herself, and instead of showing our own child the opportunity that is there to make another friend, we are happy to see our child in with the popular crowd. We hear of a group of children making fun of another child, and we accept the excuses given to us - he's weird, she's too different, he's such a nerd, she's younger, he wears hand-me-down clothes, she's not that smart (and the list goes on) - as valid reasons to pick on the child.
We Practice and Teach the Opposite of Loving the Outcast
We foster the attitude that it's acceptable to make someone an outcast. We foster it by our own actions towards those who are "different." We foster it by accepting others' actions towards people who are "weird." We foster it by encouraging, or at least ignoring, this attitude in our children.
Society as a whole is all about practicing and teaching this idea. We have a hierarchical society - those who have money and good jobs and successful families are generally at the top. Those who are poor or homeless or unemployed settle in at the bottom. In the workplace, the managers sit at the top in regards to worth and importance, while the minion workers are seen as not worthy of getting to know and spend time with. In our schools, the upper classmen are seen as more important, and those younger must obey them and put up with any taunting and bullying. Popular kids (generally those with families who are at the top in the community) are more worthy of attention, whereas those who are different or poor are worthy of being door mats.
And, it's always been this way, and therefore it is acceptable...
Or, so I've been told, and so I wholeheartedly find to be an unacceptable belief.
God Loves the Outcasts
35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40)Throughout the New Testament, we see Jesus hanging out with sinners, and the poor, and the needy. He's giving love and comfort to the grieving, the depressed, the lowly, the outcasts.
Even in the Old Testament, we see promises made by God to save the outcasts, the needy, the oppressed.
I could quote hundreds of verses from the Bible which show us that God does not forsake the broken, the sinners, the oppressed, the poor, the rejected, the crushed in spirit. (I'm not going to quote them... look them up though. It's good reading!)
We Should Also Love the OutcastsJust as I could quote hundreds which show God lifting up those who are rejected by society, I could also quote several which teach us we are to do the same. The above quoted passage from Matthew 25 is a personal favorite of mine. We tend to remember (or try at least) that we should give to those in need of clothing, food, shelter. But we often skip over welcoming the stranger.
The child sitting alone at the playground - she is a stranger in need of welcoming.
The teenager ignored, or teased, or bullied by the popular kids - he is a stranger in need of welcoming.
The person who's just a little too strange for your taste at work - she is a stranger in need of welcoming.
There Are No Outcasts in Heaven
There is no table reserved for the popular kids in heaven - no table for the outcasts.
There is no ritsy restaurant for the wealthy in heaven - no dive of an eatery for the outcasts.
We're all equal... we are all valuable parts of the Body of Christ. Perhaps it is time we start acting this way - the way God desires; the way Christ has taught us.
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)