Think about this: In Mark 1:40-45, Jesus touches the leper BEFORE he makes him clean.
This order is everything—and it is instructive to us as church.
Typically, both as individuals and as church (and I mainly want church to hear this), we welcome others into our circle of affections after they are clean first—then we touch (welcome, embrace). Here in Mark 1, Jesus is approached by a leper and touches him and then he makes him clean. Everyone else saw a leper; Jesus saw a human being. This is church, people. We welcome others into our circle of affections and care and embrace before we judge or evaluate them. We see human beings, made in the image of God, first. This order is everything. This is the gospel. This is church. And, if we want to have people freely talk about us (our church) and the news of our gospel to spread, this order is everything—and then we will see people coming to Jesus from “every quarter,” every neighborhood.
"Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God" (Ro 15:7).
This is church language. A gathered-church.
The context: Some were NOT welcoming others. So the word to church: "welcome those whom you are not welcoming."
Negative application: What are our attitudes and actions NOW that communicate "you're unwelcome here" or prohibit the welcome of those we are not welcoming (those not like us/those we hate/those we in-some-way-look-down-upon)? Discover, lament, repent.
Positive application: Intentional action that welcomes those unlike us whom we are not currently welcoming.
My theology and understanding of the New Testament brings me into places and near people that I, otherwise, probably would not be. Sometimes this scares me, not because I am uncomfortable (and I am often uncomfortable as I should be or I am not learning from my theology and understanding of the New Testament), but because I am empty of solutions or resources or practical-on-the-spot comfort.
Children's message at service yesterday:
Kids, I want to ask you a question (like I usually do), but I want you to pause and really think about your answer. When you walk into a room, into a home, into a party, into any place where there are other people (your age), what's the first thing you ask yourself?
Of course I spent a little time explaining what "ask yourself" means because they don't even know they are "asking" anything. Had plenty of puzzled looks for the most part . . . but I knew they'd get it when I told them what I thought their first question to themselves would be . . .
I said, "When you walk into a room, into a home, into a party, into any place where there are other people (your age), don't you ask yourself, 'Are my friends here?' (Parents, don't we even ask this?)"
You can see their minds work by their eyes and facial expressions. O yeah! Lots of nodding yes. They got it . . . so did the adults . . .
Of course I said this is natural and not a bad thing . . . but that can stop us from asking other questions like, who is lonely here, who is not liked and needs a friend, who is uncomfortable here and needs someone to talk to . . .
This is what Jesus did for us: he came into the party, knowing full well he didn't have any friends there, and asked, "Who is lost? Who needs a friend?"
This is church, people (now I'm not talking to the kids, but you, blog friends). Maturing in Christ means getting beyond "who are my friends?" and "are my friends here?" And this is also about maturing as a church, as a gathered-church.
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.