There is a time for everything, a time for getting close and a time for backing off, a time for getting messy and a time for staying clean. I think the former should be a prominent feature of the Christian life, but we often to default to the latter. It is just easier that way. But, convenience always comes at a cost.
What do you think? If someone had one hundred sheep and one of them wandered off, wouldn’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillsides and go in search for the one that wandered off? If he finds it, I assure you that he is happier about having that one sheep than about the ninety-nine who didn’t wander off. In the same way, my Father who is in heaven doesn’t want to lose one of these little ones. (Matthew 18:12-14, CEB)
Here the shepherd felt that “cutting his losses” at one sheep was too costly compared to the convenience of staying back with the ninety-nine. Jesus said that God feels the same way about us.
This required the shepherd to get messy, to get involved, in order to restore this sheep to his flock. It was a price worth paying.
Yes, there is a time for distancing ourselves, but but it should be a means of ensuring and/or restoring safety. It should not be a lifestyle. Let’s face it, life is messy and not always safe. It takes getting close to the lost, the broken, the sinner, the other if we want to God’s kingdom established in our world. It’s God’s mission. Is it ours?
I admit that these are hard words to swallow. It goes against my inclinations of self-preservation and comfort, but my prayer is that by getting messy a little bit at a time, I will begin to see and love people as Jesus does. This is my prayer for you, too.
Grace and peace,