The following is a story from Megan Weber…
The dinner was being prepped and their was lots of hustling going on, the door bell rang at my friend’s house, and rang again. I answered the door and was delightfully surprised to see two of the girls from soccer camp along with their brothers and parents. I had never met their parents, though the kids had been at both of our Winter World Cup events. My friend had invited this Syrian Muslim refugee family, along with a group of believers in varying depths of relationship with Jesus, over for dinner and a Scripture story.
It was a beautiful space. It was a mix of Arab Americans, Arab refugees and immigrants not yet citizens, and Americans. There was a mix of fluencies – Arabic and English. There were some who are adding daily the number of Arabic words they know. There were a few others who were adding daily the number of English words they know. It was beautiful, it was paradigm shifting, it was stereotype defying. We shared prayer requests and we prayed together.
After the meal we crowded into the living room space. The story of the Paralytic’s friends who brought him to Jesus through the roof was shared. Questions were asked. Thoughts were pondered. We considered the implications of the story on our lives. I engaged with Fatima* a Syrian refugee next to me, asking her what stuck out from the story. We discussed the story a little bit. She didn’t seem incredibly open which, to be honest, was disappointing yet we exchanged numbers and I was invited to visit her home.
As I heard the story told I could barely imagine myself breaking the rules by destroying property to get my friend to Jesus. What amazed me was that when asked if what the friends did was shameful, a Syrian man, with a Muslim background shook his head no. He reminded us that it honored Jesus, it honored the friends, AND the paralytic! God used this Syrian man I had just met to encourage me to do whatever I have to do to get to Jesus' feet and bring others with me! Even if it means breaking the cultural rules of busyness :)
The next morning, in the connect group I facilitate at Church, we were debriefing the night as we all had been in attendance the night before. One of my friends brought up the story of Jesus (post resurrection) appearing to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The point he shared was that the disciples didn’t recognize who Jesus is AT FIRST.
But Jesus, in his mercy,(though probably frustrated a little) JOURNEYED with them. As he was about to journey further, the disciples urged him to stay with them. Instead of continuing on, Jesus did just that. He STAYED. He ATE WITH THEM.
We are always looking for people of peace open to learning more about Jesus. Many already believe that he was a prophet who did a lot of miracles. There will be many who will not recognize ALL of who Jesus is, namely, his divinity! Does that mean we shake the dust off our feet? Sometimes, yes, when directed by the Spirt. More often than not it looks like staying with a person of peace. Staying with someone who is open enough that they are open to you but not quite open to everything you believe yet. It takes journeying with them through many conversations, sharing many meals, many cups of tea, cooking lessons, driving lessons, baby showers, English lessons, trips to the department of human services. In between all of those mundane spaces openness is growing and the fruit of trust is born. We love anyway. Even if they disagree with us on who Jesus is. Like the disciples, even us, as followers of Christ, are recognizing more and more of who Jesus is. There is always deeper to journey into his heart and experience Him more fully.
We SEEK people of peace and we STAY with people of peace.
That is what we are all about. Journeying… Neighboring….Across dividing lines.
I love this quote from Urban Shalom “Shalom is the end of a journey begun in reconciliation.”
Sometimes the journeying is long. Journeying takes time which is almost blasphemous in an instant culture obsessed with productivity and success. It takes effort, and energy, and capacity. Through relationship we are better positioned to help people to discover for themselves (not in a forced way) who Jesus is and the Kingdom he came to bring.
Shalom is worth the toil of the journeying.