(Jesus said) "But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, "'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look at Him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds."
Thirty years ago my family began serving as missionaries to the Vietnamese refugees in St. Louis. Now very few of these people were Christians, and so their ideas about Christians were ... sort of limited. For example, many of them thought of pastors as stern, unsmiling people in black three-piece suits, always ready to stomp all over whatever joy or pleasure you had in your life. And so naturally, they were nervous about us.
One day we were walking up to a family's home when we could see through the big front window that they were having a beer party. They looked up, and they could see us, too. They panicked. Then everybody started hiding the beer, shoving it under the sofa cushions, pushing it into cabinets and under the coffee table. We walked really, really slowly!
By the time they invited us in, everything was hidden, and the room was spotless. My husband sat down and smiled. Then he said, "Hey, could I have a beer?"
I suspect most of us have preconceived ideas about how God's people should look—the kinds of clothes they should wear, the food they should eat, the activities they should be involved in, the music they should listen to. It's human. But it's also something that can really get in the way of the Gospel. If we're busy criticizing the details of each other's lives, we won't have our ears open to hear what God is saying to us through them. If we look for reasons to reject one another, we won't receive the love and blessing God is trying to give us. Nor will we be able to share the story of Jesus with people who need it just as badly as we do.
How can we cross these divides when we are scared and nervous? Only when Jesus Himself is living in us. He is an expert at adapting to strange situations and people, of course—what else would you expect from the Son of God who went from heaven's glory to a manger in Bethlehem? He lived among us as a child, as a carpenter, as a traveling preacher and healer. He cared for all sorts of people, rich and poor, male and female, very old and very young. And He capped it all off by suffering, dying, and rising again—so that all of us, whatever we are like, can have real, everlasting life by trusting Him.
Dear Lord, live in me and help me to recognize the people I meet as people for whom You died and rose. Amen.
Dr. Kari Vo
1. When you were a child, what did you think Christians looked like?
2. Can you think of a person you know who is very different from you in race, dress, social status, or what he or she likes to do for fun?
3. How could you build a friendship with that person, or grow closer if you're friends already?
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Thirty years ago my family began serving as missionaries to the Vietnamese refugees in St. Louis. Now very few of these people were Christians, and so their ideas about Christians were ... sort of limited. For example…