Shannon and I have been chatting lately about how life must have looked walking with Jesus in the flesh. We wish that there was a bit more commentary in the Bible about the actual conversations Jesus had when hanging out with sinners.
What did He say? How did they act around Him? We do know a few things about Him and His interactions with them.
He was a friend to the sinners. (Matthew 11:16-19 and John 8:1-11)
He went to their houses, spending time and sharing a meal. (Luke 19:1-8)
My mind starts asking questions like: What would He say to them? Was He in preacher mode the entire time telling them everything they were doing wrong and how to clean up their messes? Was He making sure He clarified that He was set apart and they needed to show some respect? Was He funny? Did they laugh and joke? Did they share family stories? What did He do in those situations? How did He demonstrate His Father’s love for them? What caused them to want to change their ways simply by being around Him?
It was about a year ago, that we had an epiphany of sorts while hanging out at a pub downtown Charleston with complete strangers. It was a very interesting day as we watched people invite complete strangers up to celebrate with them so they wouldn’t be alone on their special day. They wanted ANYONE they could find to come up and share in the joy of their 1 year marriage anniversary. What was so impacting was that people were compelled to join them and celebrate them – including us – and we walked away feeling as if God was trying to show us what His love and community look like – how we all crave it, even if we don’t know it consciously. It was an incredible evening – one that I won’t soon forget.
Then there’s last night. We were at a local restaurant for dinner. It was crowded. We didn’t have a reservation. So the only place to sit was at the bar.
Funny thing. You can’t be very isolated at a bar, can you? At your table, you keep to yourself. Typically no one walks over and chats you up. But sit at a bar – even with seats between you and the next patron – and someone is inevitably going to start talking. There’s an atmosphere of community at the bar. Complete strangers having conversation, creating camaraderie, laughing, talking and enjoying the evening together.
The next thing I know, we are chatting up with a gentleman from Florida in town on vacation. We laughed, joked, shared family stories, talked about his business. But we never said anything about our occupation. It just hadn’t come up yet. But, as conversation would go, he eventually asked us why we moved to Waynesville, NC.
So we told him.
He didn’t flinch. Didn’t miss a beat. Didn’t ask us why we were sitting at the bar. Didn’t freak out and take his seat. Instead, he started asking a ton of questions. “How did you know to come here?” “Do you already have a church?” (We told him that we were starting house church Sunday night.) “How does that work?” (We explained how we just started doing life here in the community and that God was placing people in our path.)
It was really good conversation about God, about religion, about love, about relationship and community. He said, “You’re different. I’ve been around the world, met a lot of people and you’re different.”
Is that what it was like when Jesus hung out with sinners? With those who were lost, broken-hearted, lonely, sad? Is it?
Then the craziest thing.
He asked us to pray for him.
What?! This stranger, whom we met only 30 minutes before, asked us to pray for him.
He. Asked. Us.
We didn’t have to say, “You know, you really need prayer. We have a connection – we’ll pray for you. Bow your head.” No. He was hungry. Maybe he knew it. Maybe he didn’t.
And before we could say yes, he grabbed our hands and bowed his head.
At. The. Bar.
So, we prayed. We prayed for favor with his business. We blessed him, his wife, his marriage, his family. We prayed for a radical encounter with the Father’s love. We prayed that God would bless him abundantly in all things.
At. The. Bar.
When we finished, he said, “Amen.” His face looked incredulous. I got the impression he probably hadn’t had someone pray for him in such a way before. Maybe he wasn’t expecting a blessing. Maybe he was expecting something different, I don’t know. But he was touched. That much was clear.
Another gentleman sitting right next to me saw the whole interaction. When we finished praying, I heard him whisper, “Amen.”
To a prayer for someone else at the bar.
It was awesome. So we struck up a conversation with gentleman #2. He asked us about the church, about where we meet, what it looks like, what type of church.
Again, great conversation.
As we got up to leave, I said, “We’ll see you around here I’m sure.”
He said, “You may see me Sunday night. What dish can I bring?”
We got in the truck and both of us just sat there processing the night. Sure, it may not seem like a big deal to some, but it impacted us. We were meeting people and just being ourselves. God set it all up.
Which brought us to the questions/conversation I stated at the beginning of this post: What must life have been like when Jesus hung out with the sinners? What can we learn from that?
My religious paradigm is being blown up more and more every day. You see, when we truly say to God, “I’m available, use me,” He will really take us up on it.
Maybe it’s praying for a stranger at a bar. Maybe it’s sharing a meal with someone we normally wouldn’t associate with. Maybe it’s visiting the hospital to pray for someone because their family can’t be in town. It can be so many things.
All I know is that I just want to be available. All the time. With no strings attached.
God met us at the bar – again.
Any time, Jesus. Any. Time.