Every ministry or organization has "them." You know, the "them" that no one wants to have or be around. We might walk by them on a Sunday in the church hallway or share a half-hearted smile with them across the cubicle at work, but deep down, we don't like being around "them." And we don't like being around "them" for many reasons. For some, they smell, their hygiene is terrible, and their appearance is (in our own identified minds) shameful. For others, they have personalities that are odd. They might not get personal cues or they will talk incessantly or lack tact when in public. We want to avoid "them" because "them" makes us uncomfortable.
Honestly, I want to avoid the person who has bad hygiene because I don't want their lack of social gravitas making me look bad. And regarding the person who lacks social cues...I don't want to be around them because I feel as if my time would be better served with someone who understands boundaries. That way, I wouldn't have to do the hard work of putting up boundaries myself and how dare someone interrupt my day when I have "more important things to do."
But, there's a harsh truth when it comes to "them." I believe I/we are "them." I don't like hanging around the person with bad hygiene because, deep down, I feel shame. I don't feel shame because they're shameful. I feel shame because I am afraid that I would be unaccepted if people saw my "inner hygiene," the hygiene of my soul. I might take a shower and brush my teeth every day and look presentable on the inside, but, I'm constantly afraid that if people saw the person on the inside; the little kid who is hungry for acceptance, or the public speaker who wonders if his ability to speak is good enough, or the dad who wrestles with whether or not he spends enough time with his kids; I wonder if people saw that me, "Would I be accepted?"
The bottom line is I am "them."
Scripture teaches that Jesus split heaven and earth in order to empty himself, take on the form of a servant, and be found in the likeness of humanity so that the separation between the ultimate "US" (the clean and holy Triune God) and "them" (ungodly, unclean, unholy humans) might be obliterated through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Because of Jesus' willingness to not only hang out with "them," but to become one of "them," we have the ability to live a life free of guilt, shame, and condemnation. The "them" we see in the hallway of church or the cubicle at work are not defined by their hygiene or social awkwardness. They're defined by Jesus' love for them. The "them" I see in the mirror everyday; the guy who wonders if his leadership is strong enough, his father skills good enough, his husband skills loving enough; that guy in the mirror is defined by Jesus' love for him. They are not "them." I am not "them." We are not "them." Instead, we are "US;" treasured children of the Most High God that have been redeemed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So, next time to you see that person at church or in the cubicle or across the dinner table, give them a hug, a handshake, and high five and embrace the reality that we are redeemable, beautiful, and of a great value because God doesn't see us as "them," but as one of his children.
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Hardinsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.