A week ago, I started reading Tony Kriz’s book Neighbors and Wisemen: Sacred Encounters in a Portland Pub and Other Unexpected Places. I learned of the book from the guys over at Homebrewed Christianity (Bo Sanders is blogging through the book during lent), and I cannot recommend the book with higher marks. Tony’s story comes alive with beautiful prose.
A little more than half way through the book, Tony tells a story about Harry, a man who lost everything to alcoholism. Homeless and assumed crazy, Tony found himself dismissing Harry. At the end of the chapter he asked, “Why did I want to dismiss him?”
I think this is a huge question for all of us.
If I am honest, I dismiss people all the time. It is so easy disarm a person’s perspective, emotions, or thoughts with a shrug. I have a dismissal playbook of sorts. I can talk over others, dismiss them as just emotional, or focus on some character flaw.
How often have you done this? How about our churches? One of the beautiful things about Tony’s book is the way he learns to welcome the other. He finds wisdom in each person, from the Muslim family he lived with to the seemingly crazy homeless drunk.
In Hebrews we are told to entertain strangers because it might be Jesus.
I find this an interesting and challenging teaching. If you know me, you know I am an introvert. (Those of you who really know me are likely aware that I am the most awkward guy in any given room.) That said, entertaining strangers is not my first instinct, but I am learning something happens when you entertain strangers.
I wonder if some reasons our churches are struggling with discipleship is because we have become too closed off. We assume those in the inner circle are the only voices with merit. A wealth of wisdom slips through the cracks because we only listen to one demographic, one worldview. Our story should be different.
As Tony’s friend Harry says, “That’s what God does, he sings his song through broken things.”