I Talk to Strangers

This morning, as I was getting off of the Emory shuttle, I was walking down the sidewalk when I realized there was a woman walking in tandem with me.

We were walking so in-sync, in fact, from the outside, it probably looked as if we knew each other. I thought it to be rude to walk so closely to someone and not speak to them, so I turned my head and said, “Good morning!”

She responded in-kind and, after asking me where I was attending school, she began to tell me that her husband was a minister for many years but after going on a missions trip to Budapest, they returned back to the states not as committed to their congregational beliefs as before.

I asked what denomination was she and she said they were a part of the Conservative Church of God.

“Ohhhhh…”, I said. “Real conservative! Missions work usually kills any kind conservative views!”

We both laughed.

She said, “We came back and realized that what I believed didn’t work in Budapest. That’s the point if the Gospel, right? It’s supposed to work everywhere! What good is the Gospel if it doesn’t apply to all?

She said she returned to the States jaded — her husband left the ministry — and, they’ve found peace with living with and for Christ in their own way, with their own understanding of the Gospel being something for all people. Funny note: she mentioned that her mom still cries out, “You’re going to hell!” because of her newfound understanding of the purpose of the Gospel. This Southern white woman then exclaimed, “Well, I guess that’s where I’ll be going, then.”

What a great God moment. She’d rather choose hell than oppress folks with views that don’t allow all them to be able to relate to and receive the liberative Gospel of Jesus Christ. Turn up for Jesus, indeed.

Her question still resonates with me, though: “What good is the Gospel if it doesn’t apply to all?”

I mean, really! What good is it if we use the Gospel of Jesus Christ to limit and hinder and refuse and ostracize and condemn and separate and divide? The Great Commission, to take the Gospel over all of the world, is not only the missional work we’re all called to do, but also the lens through which we view and express our faith. (See Matthew 28:16-20)

Our beliefs, especially those that are shaped through denominational allegiances, can sometimes offer a narrow view of what it means to stand with those who want to experience Jesus. I know that I’ve had some beliefs about Jesus, God, and the Gospel that were limiting and seemingly made me look and feel superior because of my understanding of Jesus. (My very limited understanding, may I add)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is. for. everybody.

Everybody.

Yes, even them.

If how we view Jesus and use the bible in relationship to other people does not include them, their experiences, and contexts, then we ain’t doing this thing right.

Sorry.

Here’s the bright side: you can learn a whole lot (about life and Jesus) by talking to strangers, though!

On the Chase,

Alisha L.

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14 thoughts on “I Talk to Strangers

  1. Marcus says:

    Hmmm. I agree with the spirit of what you’re saying, but wonder if its too easy. Yesterday, I heard a preacher from a fairly “progressive” church and tradition say that, in its pursuit of inclusion, “the Church has confused politeness for hospitality”. This is to say that while the Gospel is very much for everyone, it won’t/shouldn’t/can’t always make everyone feel “good”. It’s “welcoming”, but it’s not accommodating. It’s not subject to our understanding of justice, acceptance, relevance, or anything else. It’s not looking for our peer review. It’s greater than our (or any) culture or context (though we have to use such lenses to try and understand it…our issue, not its). It sets its own standard and challenges us to yield our perspectives and preferences to it (not the other way around). It’s the most amazing and beautiful bully we’ll ever know. So, while I’m not at all saying that this makes our most conservative interpretations of the Gospel correct, I do wonder how reliable a litmus test based on how it “works for us” can really be.

    • Alisha L. Gordon says:

      Ooh! I agree with you. As I was writing this, I did consider making caveats about the very thing you said: that too much leniency removes the “narrowness” that comes with walking with Jesus.

      I think we miss the mark, however, in welcoming people IN. Many times, people can’t even get into relationship with Jesus because we are too tight, too restrictive with our understandings and expressions of Jesus. It pushes people away. Alienates them.

      Welcome them in then offer the opportunities to refine!

      Great points, Marcus!

  2. Josh McDaniel says:

    It is true. It is distressing sometimes to me how much I connect the grace of God with finite, worldly measures. Though of course we can use our circumstances and our possessions in order to spread the gospel (like Paul using his Roman citizenship to his advantage), it is very easy to idolize our particular contexts and hindering access to grace rather than being a conduit. But the church is made up of people, and people are never perfect.

    I’m still convinced Jesus Christ was a United Methodist, though. 😉

    • Alisha L. Gordon says:

      I love your Paul/Roman connection. He was great at using his privilege and possessions to further the spread of the Gospel.
      Jesus a Methodist… no way! LOL 🙂

  3. Donna says:

    Awesome post Alisha. I am a taking a class in Personal Evangelism based on The Great Commission. You make a great point. We cannot confine the Gospel and fulfill Jesus’s directive to make disciples of all nations. Can’t wait to share this with them.

    • Alisha L. Gordon says:

      Hey Donna! Thank you! Let me know how it goes over in class! I hope I’ve made the point clear that we have to be more welcoming to get people in before we try to shake them loose of their “stuff!”

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