The apostle Peter, frightened by a young girl calling him out as a follower of Jesus, denied him 3 times.
Frightened by the smallest of insects, I almost denied him an invitation to breakfast.
Each week I ask the support team for Jericho Road Nanaimo to pray for courage and boldness as we give ourselves to “the good works God has prepared in advance for us to do.” It sounds pretty spiritual (it quotes a bible verse after all), but it’s far more than a pithy, one-liner for our prayer-letter. At its heart is the recognition that even the smallest things can prevent us from recognizing and embracing all that God has for us in His Kingdom ministry.
I confessed to our church last week a tension between my desire to reach out and my enjoyment of our almost renovated townhouse. A fellow that we first met while sharing hot chocolate and prayers with people on the streets of downtown Nanaimo has moved from being a stranger to an acquaintance to a friend through my work at the food bank. He’s incredibly interesting and joyful even as he struggles with many health issues, poverty, and more. I saw him walking nearby our home with his shopping cart early Christmas morning and so walked over to him, wished him a Merry Christmas, and invited him to join us for breakfast. Due to his commitment to meet with another friend at a community breakfast he graciously declined.
What I confessed to our group was, while I genuinely desired to share breakfast and some time with my friend, in the back of my mind I also feared that if he was to accept my invitation he might bring bed bugs into our home (the apartment buildings he lives in have been known to regularly have troubles with bed bugs and other pests).
It really bothered me that the potential to have some bugs come into our home with our friend caused me to question whether or not I would extend hospitality to someone. It still bothers me and frankly it’s embarrassing to admit that if a bug can potentially create distance relationally, what about other, more significant challenges?
Jean Vanier, reflecting on the parable of Lazarus in his book Becoming Human notes why we so often exclude those on the periphery of society.
I suspect that we exclude Lazarus because we are frightened that our hearts will be touched if we enter into a relationship with him. If we listen to his story and hear his cry of pain we will discover that he is a human being. … As we enter into a dialogue with a beggar, we risk entering into an adventure. Because Lazarus needs not only money but also a place to stay, medical treatment, maybe work, and, even more, he needs friendship.
That is why it is dangerous to enter into a relationship with the Lazaruses of our world. If we do, we risk our lives being changed.
One of the things Jesus is growing in me is an awareness of the fears and potential risks of reaching out to those who are different than me in some way, and the barriers such differences may erect if I allow them. That’s why I continue to ask you to pray for “courage and boldness to do the works that God has prepared in advance for us to do” – not only for me, but for all in our church as we seek to bless and get to know our neighbours. May our experience of the Father’s love cast out all fear and lead us to embrace each of our neighbours, however large or small the risks of doing so might be.