Neighbors in the Margin

Who is my neighbor?

An expert of the law asked Jesus this exact question in Luke 10:29.  Jesus answered the man with the story of the Good Samaritan. In this story, Jesus teaches that His followers must be a neighbor.  They must ask themselves, “Who can I be a neighbor to,” rather than, “Who exactly do I have to love and who can I not love?”  Jesus was teaching that a person should be a neighbor to everyone in need.

The ultimate neighbor was Jesus, whose compassion exposed the Jewish religious leaders’ lack of concern for those who were perishing.  Jesus wrapped up His teaching with the command that His followers were to live like the true neighbor from the passage, showing mercy to those in need.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9
Yet, in spite of Jesus’ invitation to “do likewise,” Christians struggle with how to engage the marginalized. Why?

“We live in a world that is tore up from the floor up,” said Efrem Smith, former director of World Impact, speaking on suffering and the marginalized. Smith continued in his observations that Christians can no longer afford to walk around as if that isn't the case. With issues like human trafficking, modern-day slavery, disease, arrogance, racism, sexism, broken marriages, and a slew of other problems, "we have an urgency to rethink evangelism on this planet,"

That shift in thinking and method requires taking another look at how Jesus demonstrated and declared what this world would be like if it was turned right-side up again.

Jesus demonstrated this with the marginalized, the broken, the outcast, the left-for-dead, and the oppressed to show us the kingdom of God.

In his redemptive ways, Jesus brought a unique significance to righting the upside-down world through those constantly tossed to the margins. Jesus engaged the elite and the marginalized illustrating how his kingdom would bring humanity together under his grace and truth.

There are people who have a vision for the marginalized today. They are prowlers…pimps… pushers...politicians. They each exploit the marginalized with a limited vision for their own personal gain. They exploit the marginalized with false hope and promises made to be broken.

Jesus’ vision for the marginalized was an intentional investment to extend the Kingdom of God to all who would believe. The rich and powerful rejected the good news of God. Seeds of hope fell into cracks of despair and the world was ultimately turned upside down by the peace and joy Jesus brought to the exploited, the downtrodden and broken. The adulteress forgiven. The sick healed. The oppressed freed. That good news still carries redemptive power.

A church whose vision is absent of reaching marginalized people is a church that does not have a vision for the gospel of Jesus. Do we have a kingdom vision for marginalized people? Do we have a vision that combines compassion with empowerment to see redemption come alive in dark places?

As we approach new leadership in the United States and with a new year on the horizon, I encourage you to pray. Yes, pray for our country. Yes, pray against COVID-19. Those are significant prayers. But that isn’t the heart of the prayer I encourage you toward.

My challenge for each of us is to pray for vision to see the kingdom of God move through the suffering and marginalized people in our community. Pray that as the kingdom expands in marginalized places darkness gives way to light. Pray that Cornerstone witness to the good news of Jesus first and only.

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