"The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small." Mother Teresa
I read another chapter of Broken Open this morning as Elizabeth Lesser writes about "the way love will grow like an unruly cucumber vine if you give it enough time and space." Like me, she was divorced and like me, afterward had relationships that were surprising. She writes about caring for her ex-husbands son and how he became part of her family. And that has certainly happened in my life as I greatly enjoy and care about Eileen, Kelly and Christopher who are my ex husbands next three children as well as their mom. Almost twenty years ago, I did the funeral for Chuck's ex wife as well as her sisters. I keep learning how our family can look different than anyone can imagine and certainly as a Christian the call is to welcome and to love. Period. The End.
Last night I heard about the horrific shooting in Baltimore that occurred during a Bible study. And I completely understood how that can happen. In the church family we try to be welcoming and loving of all people and a Bible study is often a place where we welcome the stranger. I can think of several times over the years of Bible study at Karl Road where we were surprised by someone coming in that no one knew. We would invite them in and encourage them to participate. Because we know that the circle of believers has got to be wide and we have got to make room for all kinds of people.
However, I can remember when that person would at some point turn to me and say. "Pastor, can I talk to you in private?" And then I would hear a story about need and a request for money. And I would always feel disappointed that this person who seemed so interested in being part of our community and entering into a relationship with God , was actually probably pretending. Then there was the dilemma of what to do. We had a "policy" of not handing out money in the moment however, I distinctly remember feeling somewhat unsafe and then giving them money. I have felt at times like this torn between the desire to welcome the stranger and the suspicion that the stranger may be mentally ill and dangerous.
So, when I read about these loving and faithful Christians who welcome a man into Bible study, I completely can relate. We can have security systems and cameras in place but ultimately if we are going to be widening the circle, we are going to be vulnerable.
We will always err on the side of love.
That is what it means to follow Jesus.