Not to over-generalize, but do you notice a trend from the following cases?
Case #1: After five thousand (or more) people had gathered to hear Jesus, His disciples were ready to send them home for the day.
When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”
Matthew 14:15 NASB
Case #2: When a Canaanite woman came to Jesus, asking for help for her daughter, the disciples didn’t appreciate the distraction.
But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.”
Matthew 15:23 NASB
Case #3: When children were brought to Jesus, the disciples didn’t seem to be big fans:
Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them.
Matthew 19:13 NASB
Lined up against each other, the disciples seem to be repeatedly saying either, “The show’s over, people!” or, “Would you quit bugging our rabbi?”.
Just to be clear, I’m not in a position to condemn the apostles. In each of these cases, their actions weren’t entirely unreasonable. In their situations, I could easily have come up with a valid reason to push people away. Perhaps the apostles were looking out for their rabbi, His other followers, or even themselves. We don’t know what their motivation was, nor if we’d have done anything different in their situation.
However, we do know our own actions, and motives. Do we sometimes want to keep Jesus to ourselves? Do we like to learn from Him and watch Him work, but forget to share? Certainly, it is important to spend time with God, as well as with others who will help us to grow closer to God. We can’t just limit ourselves to a closed environment, though. God’s message isn’t meant to be kept to ourselves; it is meant for others – and not just those who have gotten all caught up on “church-speak” or only participate in “pre-sanctified” activities.
When we’re meeting with other Christians, and someone shows up who is interested in what we’re doing, but is maybe a little “rough around the edges”, we may have to put our own preferences on hold for a little while, and focus on what God wants for that person. This could mean backing up and talking about some of the basics of following Jesus. Or, it might mean filtering out (or explaining) some of the “church words” that all our friends know. It might mean letting a few things go un-challenged, when the new person says or does things that make us feel uncomfortable.
After all, not only were we likely in this situation ourselves at one time, but also, non-religious people are exactly the kind of human beings that Jesus would sometimes hang out with. He was known for spending time with those who weren’t manicured, clean-robed religious leaders. In fact, He seemed to spend a lot of time with those who were the social and religious opposite of that:
Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 9:10-13 NASB
It’s no wonder that the religious leaders (one group of which is referred to as “Pharisees”, in the passage above) asked what Jesus was doing. A Jewish rabbi spending time with these sort of people didn’t fit the cultural and religious expectations of that day. (See also Preconceptions About Wisdom.)
To be clear, Jesus did not spend time with these people groups out of pity (in the negative sense of that word), nor to patronize them. He genuinely cared about each one, and was willing to spend time in their world, so that great things could be accomplished for – and through – them. May we have the same attitude towards those who are different from us.
Furthermore, while Jesus kept His disciples close at times, teaching them and setting a good example, that wasn’t always the case. He also sent them out to do things on His behalf, where people hadn’t heard about Him yet. (See Luke 10:1, Matthew 28:18-20, and Acts 22:21.) Likewise, we are called to go out and talk about Jesus to those who don’t know Him yet – not just wait for those people to come to us (whether in our churches, our small groups, or our homes).
So, the next time that someone is messing with our mojo, frustrating our feng shui, getting us out of our groove, or just unsettling our schedule; let us remember that Jesus made time for all sorts of people, and maybe He is giving us an opportunity to reach out to them. Take that extra moment when you encounter people like that today, and ask God if this is a custom-made situation where He has placed you.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.