Matthew’s Gospel records that Jesus sat with tax collectors and sinners. Throughout the gospels we see a pattern of Jesus being in proximity and solidarity to the marginalized, the materially poor, the sick and diseased, the ethnic minority and the demon possessed. Jesus knew that where he placed himself mattered. Many of Jesus’ miracles and interaction were in places where teachers of the law wouldn’t dare to step foot. Jesus always treated the least of these with dignity and respect. Jesus’ model of intentionally going toward the places society tells us to avoid cannot be overlooked.
Where you place yourself matters.
During the warmer months, my family prayerfully chooses which park to take our two young sons to play at. We rotate between two parks in our nearest proximity: Bever Park and Redmond Park. Some days we’ll have the kids play at Bever Park which is closest to the more affluent on our side of town, but most days we play at the park that is closest to our home, Redmond Park. Shortly after moving here, we quickly got word that Redmond is the park that no one would recommend us going because it’s near a lot of recorded crime and over-generalizations of the population of people that live there.
As we work to follow Christ, we want to go into the places where the teachers of the law wouldn’t dare step foot. We don’t want to enter in with a self-righteous attitude, that we are here to fix and save the area, but rather follow Jesus’ example to come humbly and treat the least of these with dignity and respect. From the simple act of prayerfully and intentionally engaging with other families at the park, we are able to see the beauty and how God is already working in the forsaken places, long before we chose to enter in.
Place is crucial in Missional Living.
Our lives are not our own and the Great Commission never stops (even during your “family or me time”). This means that, yes, even your leisure time you should be prayerfully considering the places you are putting yourself in. Ask yourself is there diversity in the places I choose to go shopping, eat at, park to play at? Does everyone have the same ethnicity, socio-economic status, education level and beliefs in the places I choose to enter into? Is the majority of my resources (money, time, talents) spent on consuming pleasures for my own comfort and happiness or investing in the least of these in your community? Do I make the choice of where I live solely based on safety, good schooling or do I make the choice based on wanting to live missionally? Do I ask God: “God, please help me get that house and get into this school district” or do I ask: “Where would you like me to live”, where would you like me (or your kids) to go school that they may be able to glorify you most and live on mission best.
At this point you may find yourself feeling proud and self-righteous or in full defense mode defending the decisions you have made. Before moving forward, we all need to consider Romans 12:2 (MSG): “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.”
God calls us to make a choice about the way that we live for Him. Are we choosing the places we enter into by our American culture’s idolization of safety, comfort and living our best life or are we going to model the Way of Jesus in placing ourselves in the Samaria of our community; going directly toward the oppressed, not taking the long route around in avoidance of “that place” (John 4).