Encouragement for Today - Dec. 10, 2010

 December 10, 2010
Birds of a Feather
Amy Carroll

"When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.'" Luke 19:5 (NIV)         

Breaker of social norms. Savior. Messiah. The Christ. Maybe you can think of some other titles and characteristics of Jesus, but what do you think about that first one?

I read a challenging book recently that made me ponder Jesus as someone who flew in the face of socially acceptable relationships. As I thought, I realized that although Jesus' associations might not raise eyebrows in today's culture of "tolerance," He had some friendships that were very controversial in His time.

Jesus ate with sinners. He took time to teach women. He told favorable stories about Samaritans, a group hated by the in-crowd for their race. Turning things upside down, He chose to befriend the people that most of His culture rejected.

"Birds of a feather flock together" didn't seem to be true for Jesus, but I know it's been true for me. I have tended to befriend those like myself. I naturally gravitate toward women who look like me, think like me and worship like me.

But Jesus often calls us beyond our natural inclinations into the realm of the supernatural. In His counter-cultural world, Jesus calls us to love our enemies. He commands us to bless the poor. He invites us to love the seemingly unlovable.

I've been examining my own thoughts and habits, and I've recognized that often I think and act in a way completely opposite of Jesus. I have endorsed the religious and dismissed the lost. I have embraced my peers and ignored wise elders. I have elevated the educated and disparaged the simple. I've adored those with their feet on a pedestal and written off those with no platform at all.

Ringing around in my little girl memory, along with old friendship advice, is a Sunday school story about a man named Zacchaeus. He didn't have the right job, and he wasn't tall in stature or long on respect. Zacchaeus wasn't positioned well in society. He positioned himself to see Jesus, though, and for Jesus that was enough. They became friends for eternity that day.

It makes me wonder who I have overlooked that God may want to position as my friend? The gray-haired widow walking slowly down the hall at church? The woman sitting on the park bench that may have slept there the night before? The lady who speaks with an accent or may not speak my language at all? The poor, the lonely, the different-than-me? Let's make a pact to look up from our comfortable circle and look out at a world that's dying to have a friend like Jesus…or like you and me.

Dear Lord, I have not chosen my friends as You did. Would You help me to see value in each person the way You do? Help me to look beyond my current circle of friends and begin to include those that You include. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:

Visit Amy's blog

The Guest List is a free resources loaded with inspiration to reach out beyond our circle

Welcome to Community: Experiencing Life the Way God Intended by Brian T. Anderson & Glynnis Whitwer
Host a tea party for new friends with ideas from Tea with a Twist: Entertaining and Cooking with Tea by Lisa Boalt Richardson
Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper 

When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you touch eternity because your purchase supports the many areas of hope-giving ministry we provide at no cost. We wish we could, but we simply can't compete with prices offered by huge online warehouses. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for each and every purchase you make with us. Thank you!

Application Steps: 
Plan to put yourself into a new situation where you might meet new friends.

Are all my friends very much like me?

Is God putting anyone different in my path that He might want me to befriend?

Who might be waiting for my friendship and the knowledge of Jesus?

Power Verses:

Luke 19:7, 9-10, "All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.' Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.'" (NIV) 

© 2010 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105

Originally published Friday, 10 December 2010.