Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. Mark 7:24-30

I grew up in an area that was predominantly completely made up of Caucasians. There was one African American family that moved in one time, and left soon afterwards. I also lived in a culture that told me I should despise, look down upon, and even be afraid of people of color. When I was 17, I moved from that area to a new school that was very diverse. For the first time, I was scared of the people I went to school with – because they looked different and because of what I had been told. Little did I know that I would eventually become friends with lots of people of color – that they were real people, just like me, and God would show me that He loves everyone, not just those like me.

The world is filled with rules about who to hang out with. Don’t drink, don’t dance, don’t smoke, don’t chew, and don’t hang out with those who do. Perhaps you’ve heard that at some point. You’d think the Church would be a place where those rules don’t apply; after all, Jesus seemed to spend lots of time with people others wouldn’t be caught dead with. But all too often, we build up rules to “keep us holy before God” that keeps us from spending time with the kind of people Jesus associated with.

The way of Jesus is to love everyone – not just those who agree with everything we agree with, who like the same political party or music or make the same amount of money or who have the same color of skin, or whatever it might be. It’s easy to judge those not like us – but Jesus showed us a different way.

He showed the Syrophoenecian woman a picture of the love of God – by answering her request to cast the impure spirit out of her daughter. A closer reading shows that not only was Jesus talking to someone who most good Jews wouldn’t be talking to, but he also was in the region of Tyre – a region no good Jew would be caught in. Double whammy!

Does hanging out with the wrong crowd affect us? Of course it does. But we’d better be careful not to label people who are different the “wrong crowd”. There’s a tension inherent to following Jesus and loving others who seem unlovable, or immoral, or simply different. But I’ve come to believe that one of the marks of maturity for followers of Jesus is to learn to live in tension. This might mean talking to someone you wouldn’t typically talk to, or going where you wouldn’t typically go – to be the hands, feet, ears, and voice of Jesus to someone who desperately needs him.

This week, move toward someone who is different than you, and practice listening to their story, to their perspective, to their experience. Let God use this to help you learn to see with different lenses and to help you learn to love more broadly.

NOTE: March 15th South is partnering with Cru to have a workshop called Fear, Facts & Faith – A Biblical View of Immigration. This workshop will address our refugee neighbors in the Denver area and other immigrants, break down misconceptions about them, broaden our perspective, and give us practical ways to love those who are different than us. You can find out more here.

By Larry Boatright