“Fringe” as an adjective, means not part of the mainstream or unconventional. (www.dictionary.com) God has been causing me to fall more and more in love with people on the fringe of society because I don’t see this as a demographic the Church, as a whole, is reaching out to regularly. I see lots of emphasis on marriage, on support for mom’s who get to stay home with their kids and families with married moms and dads…all good, don’t get me wrong, but we are leaving a lot of people out. We’re leaving out the people on the fringe and those are the people I am most drawn to. These are often also the people who are hardest to love because they don’t easily or quickly love back.
I don’t know who you think about when you think of the fringe of society, but I think of folks like those divorced, those who have divorced parents, single moms and dads, those who are homeless, those on government assistance, those who have been or are currently addicted to drugs or alcohol, those overweight, those underweight, those with anxiety and depression, people of a different culture, people of a different skin color…this list keeps going but you get the jist. These people feel left out and unloved because they are different. They look at their lives and they instantly compare themselves to others and they feel like the don’t measure up because people not on the fringe say things like, “bless your heart” and think “there but for the grace of God” when they hear their stories. They wonder what they did wrong that their lives didn’t turn out as they had dreamed as a kid. They wonder if God can actually love them and use them. Now, I’m not judging the Church, we’ve done some AMAZING things to help folks on the fringe, but we go to them out on the fringe and we never invite them into community. It’s time to start inviting them in.
I’ve been praying about this a lot lately. I believe that God has laid this demographic on my heart for a reason and I’ve never really understood why…until today. I’ve prayed many times, “Why me, God? Why are you drawing me to the fringe when all I want to do is fit in.” Oh, there it is, did you see the paradigm shift? I’m desiring to fit in instead of accepting that I AM PART OF THE FRINGE. I’m from a home of divorce. I myself have been divorced twice. I’m a single mom. I’m a redeemed and recovered alcoholic. I have PTSD. My list could go on and on as well, but again, you get the jist. I’m drawn to the fringe because I am just one part of the fringe so of course, God would use me to reach what I know.
I think Jesus lived on the fringe. He wasn’t part of the religious group of His day. He wasn’t what anyone expected. He didn’t ask people to clean up and then follow Him. Jesus went into the dark places of the world and He had dinner with prostitutes, tax collectors and other people who society didn’t quite know what to do with. He called the fringe to His side and He accepted them and He loved them. Jesus loves the mainstream AND the fringe, and He died for both.
I believe that we, as the Church, need to love the fringe and create opportunities for them to feel like part of a community. Keep our programs to make marriages better and, add a program to reach out to those who are single adults. Keep our programs to make our parenting skills stronger and, add a program to address the world of the single parent. There needs to be an emphasis on helping build a whole community, not keep the fringe “over there”. This is going to shake things up. This is going to be radical. We will run the risk of a heroine addict sitting next to us in the seats. We will run the risk of reaching people with the love of God REGARDLESS of their present circumstances. We will run the risk of identifying with people who don’t look like us. Worst of all, we’ll run the risk of actually loving all people, just like God has commanded. Yikes! We’ll actually BE the Church and the Bride of Christ! Awesome! I’m in!
God gave me a saying many, many years ago and I didn’t really know what to do with it but now I do. “Love All. Judge None.” This is a choice and it is a risk and, it is Jesus. This is radical and it is dangerous because our boxes are going to break open. This is also ridiculously needed in our world today. It’s time to shake things up and love those who do
Love All. Judge None.