As my church observed a week of prayer, I felt God putting a theme on my heart: the outsiders. No, not the book by S.E. Hinton (if you haven’t read it, I recommend it!), but the people around us who tend to be excluded from or not invited into the activities and fellowship happening around them.
As I read the Gospels, it doesn’t take long to see that Jesus is drawn to the outsiders, the unattractive ones, and even the most “sinful” ones. Again in James 2, it hit me: “Do you with your acts of favouritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?” (James 2:1 NRSV).
I’ve been guilty of discriminating against people because of their life situation. I used to be involved at The Meeting Place, an MB church in downtown Winnipeg, where people regularly come in off the street for the service. They would often be drunk and they almost always reeked. There were times I found myself smugly thinking, “Things aren’t that bad in my life!” or feeling frustrated when a conversation with one of these brothers or sisters went on far too long. (I figured I should’ve been doing more important things.)
Yet, Jesus was clear that when we treat one of the “least of these” with respect and care, we’re actually ministering to him! Christian communities are called to love and accept all people into our family, even those who are unattractive or intimidating to us.
When I opened the lectionary, a devotional guide used by thousands of Christians, this prayer gave words to the thoughts on my heart:
Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
—Cory Alstad is pastor of worship ministries at North Langley (B.C.) Community (MB) Church. A version of this reflection first appeared in the NLCC e-bulletin.