Who are some of the “outcasts” you see around you? Who doesn’t seem to fit in? How does Jesus see them? Do you believe Jesus can make a difference in their lives? Why or why not?
I was a senior at Ohio University when I met Reed while I was witnessing to students in a line outside a bar in Athens, Ohio (I called it line evangelism). Reed told me he had been in and out of emergency rooms for injuries or alcohol poisoning a few times, and often slept in an alleyway or out by the river. Reed was the first “homeless” person I actually had talked to.
I knew I should offer Reed hospitality, a shower, and a good meal. So I did. My mistake was not conferring with my three roommates first, but there were no cell phones in 1981. The smell that hung like a cloud over our place the next morning almost made me gag. It all emanated from the couch where Reed was sleeping. A spray bottle of air freshener was not removing the odor, and my roommates were upset. They were not mad so much about Reed, since all of us often had friends sleep over. But the smell Reed brought with him was not what they expected. We came up with a fresh set of clothes, put Reed’s old ones in a garbage bag, and hustled that bag out to the dumpster (along with the couch, which was a real loss). Two showers and a shave later, Reed gobbled down some Big O pancakes and said he had to take off. I never saw him again.
Read Luke 8:26-39.
Jesus was confronted once by a man we would label “homeless.” For awhile this man had not worn clothes, lived in a house, or appeared to fit into society, but he survived by living among the tombs (i.e., the local cemetery). The people who lived in the town were afraid of him, and they apparently chained him up. But the demon-possessed man had grown too strong (verse 29). He spent his days and nights crying out and physically hurting himself (see Mark 5:5).
You can imagine how a story like this would circulate around town – a scary story to keep the children (and even some adults) in line. “Be good, or the crazy guy will get you.” In time, the man became a fixture, part of the scenery, albeit on the outskirts of the city. Anyone who passed through town and stopped for a meal or a business transaction probably heard about him.
But the day this man ran into Jesus, his story changed. His regular and unending cycle of demonic torment ceased. Jesus ordered the demons out and they entered a herd of pigs nearby. The animals ran into a lake and drowned (Luke 8:32-33).
What Luke records in the narrative next tells us a lot about the people of the town. The pig farmers ran to tell everyone what had happened, while Jesus got the man some clothes and talked with him (v 34-35). Were the townspeople happy for the man? No. The economic loss was more important to them than regaining a fellow human being. The farmers were out 2,000 pigs and the town lost their favorite “freak show” to gossip about. They even told Jesus to get out of town!
The formerly crazy man who was healed now had a story of his own to tell – the story of how Jesus saved him. What about us? Are we too wrapped up in the culture of our group to notice people living on the fringe because they may not fit in? We can’t cure them or take their pain away. But Jesus can. They can run to Him with their personal demons and He can save them. Live communally. Bring in the outcast. Do you care enough to bring them to Jesus?
Love is a verb,