I had a conversation the other day about apartment life and ministry. There are quite a few apartment complexes near our church and we are beginning the process of establishing some ministry presence. This Church had been involved in apartment ministry last year, but when the facility changed hands, the new management no longer wanted us there.
Several people in the conversation talked about previous success in apartment ministry. One of the phrases I heard repeated was that building up community in apartments and offering programs for children had the effect of “driving the unwanted element from the apartments.”
I both know exactly what was meant, and felt lost about it at the same time.
I am a follower of Jesus. As such, I don’t think I have the right to identify anyone as “the unwanted element.”
Are there people I don’t want (trust) alone around my children? Yes, of course. But they don’t all look alike. In fact, there is no particular profile of people who fit that category. Basically, if I don’t know you, I don’t want you alone around my children!
Most of us who claim to follow Jesus agree in the abstract that “God loves everyone.” But how seriously are we willing to take this?
Are you satisfied with “God loves everyone, but don’t expect me to do so”? I am not. I believe God calls us toward becoming the kinds of people who actually follow Jesus – who lived as he lived, who treat others as he did.
Do we expect everyone God accepts and welcomes into His presence to meet our standards, or are we open to God’s leading to adjust our standards to God’s?
Perhaps it comes down to this. There are people who, in their current state, I would rather not share an apartment community with. However, these people, as much as any other, are those for whom Jesus came and died to offer redemption.
Through Jesus, God has given us, his followers, the ministry of reconciliation. If we refuse to do this, we ourselves are acting as though we are alienated from God.
Which makes us “the unwanted element.”