Out of the Pews and Into the Streets

Simon and Garfunkel came out with a song some time ago called “I Am a Rock.” Below are some of the lyrics to that song.

“…I am a rock; I am an island. I’ve built walls, A fortress deep and mighty, that none may penetrate. I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain…I have my books. And my poetry to protect me; I am shielded in my armor, Hiding in my room, safe within my womb. I touch no one and no one touches me. I am a rock, I am an island. And a rock feels no pain; And an island never cries.”

God didn’t design us to live emotionally detached like this. Before creating Eve in Genesis 2, God said that it is not good for man to be alone. He created Eve as a suitable helpful for Adam. From the very beginning we can see that God created us to be in community, not in isolation.

Rather than being an island or rock, God wants us to welcome others into our lives. He is calling us as Christians today to not only be a part of a community, but also reach out to others and help them become part of our community as well. Moreover, He wants us to minister to those whom society (and sometimes the church) have chosen to ignore. This includes the poor and disenfranchised, the prodigals who have run away from the faith, and believers who are struggling with sin.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 18 help us understand the importance of this. In verses 10-11, He challenges us to not look down on anyone, but instead give each other the benefit of the doubt. This keeps us from putting up walls that separate us and/or hinder the development of trust with others. Unfortunately, sometimes we create major stumbling blocks to others by judging them, looking down on them, or by not accepting them unconditionally. Jesus accepted everyone, and so should we!

We are also challenged in this chapter to pray for and search the prodigal believers who have wondered from the faith and turned to their own way. In verses 12-14, Jesus gave an illustration about how the owner of 100 sheep will go after the one who has gone astray. We see many prodigals today who grew up in church but have left the community because of hypocrisy in the church and ungodly attitudes of Christians.

Lastly, we need to forgive a sinning brother unconditionally because of the depth of Christ’s forgiveness for our sins (verses 21-35). Since Christ took the initiative to reach out to us, we should do the same by forgiving unconditionally those who have sinned against us (Romans 5:6-8).

Who is God calling you to reach out to? Consider the following categories: 
1. Someone struggling to make ends meet who require instruction to become self-sufficient.
2. A prodigal believer who walked away from their faith because of hurt they experienced in the church.
3. A believer who is in sin and needs a loving confrontation.
4. Someone who has sinned against you or offended you. God calls us to forgive that person, and if they are aware of your resentment, you should go and ask forgiveness from them.