I am one of you and have been since I started tentatively on the journey eighteen years ago. It was a shy start, an uncertain start, an almost defiant start (“God, if You are there, show Yourself to me.”); but it was a beginning. That’s what’s important.
Tonight, I want to talk to you about something I’ve cared deeply about for a long time. You see, we’re all pretty good at supporting our missionaries by writing the cheques and blessing them at prayer service. We shake hands with our pastors and give them goodies at Christmas and maybe even send them a text to let them know we are praying for them. We even occasionally get BRAVE and invite our neighbours to a special service at church or hand a tract to some stranger on the street.
Many of us don’t know how to handle people who seem different. Somehow, it’s okay to be in a wheel chair, to have Down Syndrome, to fight cancer, to need glasses and hearing aids; yet it’s not okay to just not “get it” socially. Somehow it’s easier to express pity for the homeless than for those who miss the unwritten cues of relationships. Somehow we think that social smarts should just be innately in people, even though we’ve long accepted that academic smarts aren’t everyone’s thing.
What are we going to do about it? I’ve got to admit that I am tempted to and sometimes do steer around the person who stutters or the one who talks endlessly about themselves or the one who hardly talks at all. Given the choice, I’d rather meet a good friend for coffee than take out the misfit in my youth group. Somehow it’s easy to conveniently miss these people, especially since they rarely include themselves.
Seems like even the Bible is silent about social skills and what to do with those who are missing them. Perhaps, we need to read between the lines.
Consider the story of Zacchaeus. Ever wonder why he became a tax collector? It wouldn’t take much imagination to guess that growing up he was bullied for his diminutive height. We all know that old adage that hurt people hurt people. When we meet Zacchaeus, he is alone in a tree, not exactly a high relationship status. Maybe he had tried to buy friends, but I can’t imagine that he had any real ones.
But you and I aren’t God.
I don’t exactly know how we are supposed to love those who struggle socially, but I’ll share a few ideas.
I love you Church, and I love our Jesus Who will give us the grace to do the right thing, one interaction at a time.