Who are the people who are hard for you to love?
I was struck several years ago by a conversation about curiosity here in Book Club. We were reading The Curious Christian by Barnabas Piper, talking about how curiosity is a lost art in so many of our circles. Previously I thought curiosity meant I was walking down a path I shouldn’t- that I might change my mind or beliefs or actions merely by learning more from someone or about something that is different.
I’ve been stretching myself lately to listen to people who have different opinions than I do, or different theological or faith backgrounds. People who come from different parts of the world, or are a different race. What if I truly listened, sought to understand their side and their story, with no strings attached?
It’s been hard, to be honest. Part of me wants to run back to what is comfortable and familiar, or rush forward in judgment. But I’m sticking around, trying to learn and listen and letting the questions keep coming up to the surface.
Alia Joy has some tough things to say in chapter five of Glorious Weakness, mostly about the church. I found myself nodding in some parts of this chapter, shifting uncomfortable in my seat for others or wanting to stick my chest out in defense of the Body. What was your response to her words?
I learned a long time ago that the Body of Jesus is made up of a bunch of imperfect humans. I know that we’ve all seen the ramifications of this, been hurt or seen others hurt. I so appreciated that Alia shared her story of how she and her parents have grown to embrace the church and desire so much more for her.
I don’t usually think about the priest and Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan. We know we need to care for the downtrodden, the one who might make us uncomfortable as their pain is laid bare. Yet, Alia said this: “What is hard is not the man robbed on the side of the road, beaten and left for dead. I have felt those wounds in my very soul. What is hard is loving the priest and the Levite who crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by, presumably on their way to do their holy work”.
If we pause and reflect for a moment, placing ourselves in this narrative, we can probably see who would be the hardest to love, and that might look different for each of us. As we look around our neighborhoods, our churches, our organizations, or host or passport countries, can we be real about who it is difficult to love?
It’s not easy to do the soul work of letting the Father gently reveal the people who need a gracious response in our lives. It’s not easy to uproot hurt and bitterness and choose forgiveness and grace instead. At the same time, loving might not look like restored relationship or boundarylessness, no sin consequences or the same opinion.
Alia ends the chapter with this message for us: “Maybe instead of trying to flash our golden ticket, church will be more like a banquet table where we all come banged up, ragged, penniless and starving to the feast set before us. Where we continually make space by expanding the table and the guest list doesn’t offend us so much as make us gasp in awe at the magnificent grace of a good, good God while we sit elbow to elbow with our enemy”.
Who’s your neighbor right now? How can you be more curious about, more gracious toward, more loving to them? What stood out to you in this chapter?
Here’s the schedule for the rest of the book!
November 5: Chapters 6 & 7
November 12: Chapter 8
November 19: Chapter 9
November 26: Chapters 10 & 11
Want to learn a little bit more about Alia and her story? Check out these podcast interviews!