In my church1, I see a number of people who appear to be pretty close to the “Instagram ideal”. For instance, there are the young families who look like an Old Navy commercial when they walk into church. Both the husband and wife are smart, successful, and savvy. People fawn over their cute children and laugh at their jokes, and when the parents are coaxed to share stories, we find that the entire family is successful in business, at school, within their home, and in the community. Then, there are older individuals (and couples) whose wisdom is sought out, because they are personable and friendly when they share their insights. And, there are many other “beautiful people” in the church from various walks of life.
To be crystal clear, I firmly believe that these popular Christians are still committed followers of Jesus Christ. I’ve gotten to know a number of them over the years, and am impressed with their sincerity. They demonstrate their faith by their actions, and are open about their struggles where they are trying to overcome challenges. I’m sure that some of their fame and success is because of their decision to live like Jesus (after all, He was well-liked by many, too). However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was occasionally jealous!
I love the fact that God brings these sort of people to Jesus Christ. In a world where a skewed picture of success might have caused them to believe that they already “had it all”, and that they didn’t need Jesus, they discovered that there was more to life than just the façade that social media and Madison Avenue present to us. In Jesus, they are living a truly complete and full life – the “abundant life” that He promised in John 10:10.
However, I’m also super glad that Jesus reached out to the rest of us! Don’t get me wrong: my wife is attractive and smart, my kids are brilliant and polite, and I am thankful for a good job; still, I’m getting a little old to be part of the “in crowd”, and not yet old enough to be considered “sage”2. (Being an engineer – i.e., a professional nerd – doesn’t help, either.)
Still, there are many people who are convinced that they will never be part of the popular circle (nor part of a loving family or circle of friends). It is painful to realize that this blatant lie has been so successful, and it gets even worse when world projects these falsehoods into the domain of faith as well. When a corrupted, fallen world tells hurt and hurting people that they aren’t good enough for God, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that Jesus sought out these people: the unpopular, the sinful, the outcasts, the sick, and the lost.
In return, these same people – rejected by the world, but welcomed by Jesus – were attracted to Jesus, and followed Him:
Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.
Luke 15:1 NLT
Where the world saw invalids, Jesus saw those who were valid members of God’s family. These lost sheep weren’t just candidates for the Kingdom of God, they were actively sought out by God, as Jesus described in Luke 15:3-7. These are people that God wants to bring back home.
Jesus loved them dearly, and not only brought hope and healing to them, but offered them adoption into a family: one whose eternal home is in heaven, but whose family love, family dinners, and family time start here on this earth. The family of God here on earth is imperfect – like every other family – but there is love and support found in the community of believers who are truly seeking to serve others out of their love for Jesus. Our congregation has been living out that motto, “Jesus for All People”, for some years now, and it is incredible to see this principle in action. When broken people are welcomed into the family of God, they also go through a positive transformation into a “new person” (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).
I don’t think that this message has yet been adequately communicated to the residents of our planet, though. Yes, millions have heard the good news and found acceptance (not just from God, but also from those who have already joined God’s family), but there are still too many who have not.
If this describes you today, I hope and pray that you will stop believing the lie. No matter your past or your social status, Jesus died so that you could be welcomed back to Him. He didn’t just feel sorry for you. He loved you (and still does) so much that He was willing to pay for all of your sins (just like He paid for mine). Jesus didn’t measure Facebook likes or listen to the taunting of bullies when He decided who He would rescue. In fact, I’m pretty sure that He knew the sins – both public and secret – of every human being when He voluntarily exchanged His birthright for our salvation. Knowing that, He still willingly went to the cross to make the payment (even for those bullies, believe it or not). Please join me in accepting Jesus’ love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and acceptance. He’s not surprised or shocked at your past choices (nor your present situation), but He wants to be part of your future. Let Him change everything for you.
When the fear of “not being good enough”, or “not fitting in” keeps people away from Jesus’ welcoming arms, then His followers haven’t don’t a good enough job of dispelling the lies of Satan. This includes both a message (the truth that Jesus taught) and a ministry (actually showing others what the love of Jesus looks like when we live it out). It means teaching with grace and truth, but it also means ensuring that we are not falling into the world’s trap of treating anyone differently based on their wealth, health, or status (James 2:1-9 is pretty clear about this).
Once we have found the peace and freedom that Jesus Christ offers, let us continue His mission. Without stopping our prayers and outreach to those who are already popular, religious, or “cool”, I know that there are many others who need to hear about (and see) Jesus from us. That’s a great way to live like He did.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
- By “my church”, I mean the congregation where my family worships and serves. It’s Jesus Christ’s church, of course.↩
- I’ve learned to be OK with this, though, and just enjoy watching young families go through the phases of their lives that I’ve completed. My role is to serve them, along with everyone else in the congregation, regardless of age or social status.↩