I am having conversations these days with all sorts of Christ followers who have been in Northampton for varying lengths of time, some for many years. All of them, though, have grown fully aware of the thorny challenge of working through resistance, and sometimes a downright “we don’t like your kind” disdain. Some have used the word “hatred” regarding what they have experienced. It seems to have become for many a stymieing quandary.
For a new guy on the block what I have heard can feel chilling, like, “And exactly what were we thinking in coming here?” I hear the hookah-smoking caterpillar ask me what he asked Alice, “And who are you?” Indeed!
At the same time, I am growing more convinced that this living Jesus is the salve to the wounds of people angry with anyone bearing the name Christian. Who he is; what he did; and what he does now hold the keys to calming the angry and lowering their hyper-guard. I grow more sure I must reveal Jesus in how I love and care for people who don’t like me because I say I am a follower. He is the way and the means through this.
Right now, I am irrelevant to most of the wounded angry ones around me on the streets of Northampton, a late middle-aged face in the crowd, ambling about with no cause for alarm. I pose no threat in my anonymity. Yet, I am watching and praying, looking for his invitation to open to him and them in Northampton. I don’t recognize the door with my name on it just yet, but I am getting closer. When I do, I will go in. And they will need to see Jesus. For that to happen, I will need to be humble and real for him to be seen. His love for them must be mine no matter their response to me. And I will need to persist in vulnerability for them to catch a glimpse of him. That glimpse could make all the difference.
I find I am also of the mind that seeing Jesus will face them with truth, because he is astounding Truth, unadulterated, unfettered, and staggering. No way around it. He can be gentle in truth-telling, but he is always fierce for freedom and true life, a searing, purging Fire for anyone who looks closely enough and sees his or her heart uncovered: bored, foolishly proud, limping, resentful, anxious, weary, scarred, scared or terminally distracted by chasing trifles unawares.
The thing is, there is really nowhere to hide when we come near Jesus. He sees it all and gets it all. And if people have the gumption to look long enough they will find the way to healing and real freedom, the kind that cuts through the crap and bathes the still-borne heart in light: revelation. . . . the sick are healed, the blind see and deaf hear, buckled-over captives are released, and refugees become cherished guests. Joy finds a way to overtake numbness and despair. Jesus does that. Jesus is that.
So I must learn to surrender and humanize enough to stay near him and what he loves so scoffers and the truly offended might find him in ragamuffin me. His redemptively subversive whispers and touch will have to be recognizable in what I say and do over and over again. Anything less and I sorely miss the point of being in Northampton at all. I do not want to be successful at missing the point. I know that tune only too well.
Jesus is all I have to offer. He is all that matters. Just him. Jesus. Only him. Jesus.