In light of recent events in the world of sports, sexual orientation, and fringe surgery, I was not surprised to immediately see the internet explode with articles and responses from conservative circles--many of whom claimed to be Christian--with disgust and borderline hatred towards Bruce "Caitlyn" Jenner. Some of what I read had some good points, some of what I read had solid Biblical points, and then on the opposite side of the spectrum were articles praising the bravery of Jenner.
To be honest, I don't really want to directly weigh in on this matter necessarily, but I do want to offer some commentary on the tone of the backlash produced. In all of these articles was a common denominator: distance. Not one writer could claim any sort of relationship or even acquaintance with "Caitylyn" Jenner. And so the accusing finger points, the select audience approves, all at a safe distance from the actual event and victim of darkness giving birth to more darkness.
I remember at one of my most recent workplaces where I was a manager, I was approached by one of my team members with whom I was trying to show love towards and build friendship. Apparently I was the only manager who he felt truly cared about him and who treated him respectfully (thus the reason why I was approached). This young man was a bold atheist and had recently decided to pursue same sex relationships. This day he spoke with me privately that over the next few months he would be undergoing a sex change as he was already seeing a therapist and raising money for the surgery.
Now, to be honest, this was a first in my management career and personal friendships. How was I to respond to this in both a loving and professional manner?
Over the next few months he would tell me stories about his transgender experimentation. At one point he proudly asked, "Last night was awesome! Could I show you a picture of me in my dress?" I can say in all honesty that he was sincere in wanting my approval and mutual celebration. Again, I was faced with how to respond because I was near him--I worked with him, spoke with him, and loved him as someone made in the image of God. Even if I had wanted to, I could not escape this situation because it was everyday life: I was at my job!
Yet God had placed me here. In the harvest. To talk and show love towards someone who would probably never walk inside a church or even be in earshot of the latest "church outreach" program. How was I to walk in this reality? Let's take a look at Jesus' response:
35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
The story of Bruce Jenner is one of thousands that happen each day by those who are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. The people who are caught in darkness represent the harvest into which we are sent by the Father. The fact that I was placed where I was to rub shoulders with this young man was an answer to prayer for the Father to send laborers INTO the ripe fields.
Following Jesus in the everyday stuff of life requires a commitment to hearing and following the Spirit's prompting in our lives along with purposely listening to the heartbeat of those around you.
It also requires close proximity. After all... distance is always safe; closeness demands sacrifice.
It's life-on-life, messy, and even exhausting. No doubt you will encounter all sorts of perverted outcomes of darkness that scare and possibly even disgust you. There will be those who will be considered lost-causes, unclean in nature, and enemies towards all things moral. Yet these are the very ones with whom Jesus purposely engaged in physical, tangible, and intimate ways.
Find yourself in the harvest. God places us in it everyday through ordinary situations. How are we reacting to the crowds as Jesus did? Are we moving towards or away from the harvest? How are we approaching our work week, our daily interactions, our haircuts, our mom's group, or our kids' karate classes with gospel intentionality?
Be salt. Be light. Get close.
For more thought on this, check out this video about Following Jesus in Everyday Life: