Written by Andrew Porter
For 27 years of my life, I was part of an amazing church family. It was home. They nurtured me and fed me, they walked with me and invested in me. It was during these years Jesus grabbed hold of my heart and opened my eyes anew to the beauty of who He is. I was in love with this family and with the young people I was serving. But alas, the time had come for me to leave the nest.
God, as he often does, turned the page and began writing a new chapter in our story. Last fall my family and I moved away from our hometown and began a new adventure in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia.
As we searched for a new church family, we quickly realized how important it was to be a welcoming church, especially for new people walking into the building for the first time. There were Sundays we decided just to remain in our seats after the worship service to see if anyone would come up and engage us. To our surprise, hardly anyone did. We would get the occasional “Hello” or head nod, but not too many seemed very interested in welcoming us.
As all sorts of people enter the doors of church buildings across Canada, there are just as many different places on the journey and different seasons of life. As the Church, we cannot be inward focused—we need to love each individual who walks through the doors.
Simply put, we need to model what Jesus did every day of his life and ministry. Jesus came to seek people (Luke 19:10). He walked around Earth with his eyes wide open looking for people He could pour His love, grace, and mercy into!
We live in a society where it’s normal is to stick earbuds in our ears and keep our heads down with our eyes glued to a screen, while people walk right on by. Jesus wants to shake us up out of that self-centred mentality, and he wants us to notice the people around us. God created all of humanity to live in a community of love. He didn’t create us to live in a bubble or in our own little world. We’re called to journey through life with people.
But Jesus didn’t just see people, He engaged with them—we see this all throughout the Gospels. In John 5, Jesus made one of his journeys to Jerusalem to participate in a Jewish festival. As he entered the sheep gate (the gate used by the shepherds who brought the sacrificial lambs to the temple to be sacrificed), he passed by the pool of Bethesda.
Jesus, who was never in a hurry to get anywhere, noticed a man by the pool who had been an invalid for 38 years. How many of us walk blindly past the lost and the lonely every day because we’re in too much of a hurry to get where we need to go? Jesus, in His selfless love, slowed life down enough to see people and engage with them. Jesus was on his way to get somewhere, but that was not his mission. The festival was secondary. The invalid was primary. We can see people all day, but if we don’t engage them, then we are doing nothing!
We see in verse 6 that it only took Jesus eight words (NIV) to erase 38 years of hopelessness! In an instant, the tide turned for this man. And that’s just how quick the hope, redemption, and life Jesus is offering can come to you.
This story shows there is no expiration date on the mercy, grace and healing power of Jesus Christ in your life. You might find yourself in a tomb for three days, but a resurrection is coming! That’s the hope that only Jesus is able to extend.
In our communities and churches, we need to see and engage the people around us. We cannot just remain in our exclusive church cliques or social groups. We cannot be so quick to come into and out of the church building on Sundays. If our eyes are merely focused on the mirror, then people—some of whom are in a desperate condition and desperately need Jesus—are going to slip through our fingers.
If the Church is going to be the place of healing and transformation for all, then we need to see and engage all. We cannot fix our eyes on self and ignore the people that are standing in our midst.
There are people crossing your path today. Do you see them?