Jesus yearned for the hearts of the marginalized—about the forgotten, isolated, shunned, and persecuted people. Throughout the Gospels and the totality of Scripture God’s heart for the people on the outskirts of society is evident. God incarnate—Jesus himself—was even an outcast.
Jesus undeniably pursued the marginalized offering them healing and new life.
But let’s be honest: it’s often incredibly uncomfortable and awkward.
Hearing about God’s heart for the poor and marginalized was what drew me to Him initially when I was younger. When I was nineteen, I applied to serve with YouthWorks, a ministry that leads mission trips for youth groups. On Tuesdays every week we went to a soup kitchen in downtown Duluth, MN and ate with people in need of a meal.
There were times when I absolutely dreaded eating a meal with the people there. I tried to blame it on my introversion—large groups of kids, mixed with adults I didn’t know and had little in common with, in an unfamiliar and crowded place (aka, an introvert’s nightmare).
But it wasn’t all introversion—I was so uncomfortable around people that I thought I had nothing in common with, yet was called to love them. The tension was real.
Something happened each week though. The fear of interacting with people different than me, people with different backgrounds, present circumstances, life experiences, and values had started to lessen and lessen every time I went.
God began to give me His eyes for the people around me. He brought to mind a question that would break down the differences we shared and allow for connection: “What’s your story?”
I started focusing on their soul and less on my discomfort.
In the US there are three marginalized groups that stand out (although there are many more); these people are largely treated as peripheral or insignificant often resulting in isolation and exploitation.
- Refugees or anyone not US born and raised “the foreigner”
- The physically and mentally sick, including people struggling with addiction, physical ailments or disabilities, depression, bi-polar disorder, etc.
- People living in poverty encompassing homelessness and the poor working class
Jesus loved the people in his day that were not loved by people of society. The woman at the well was poor, a woman, a Samaritan (which held religious and ethnic connotations that the Jews despised), and socially looked down upon because of her many divorces. Despite all of that, Jesus looked at her and talked with her anyway. Jesus created space to speak with her and shared the Truth of eternal life with her (Jn. 4:14) even when the majority looked the other way.
How did Jesus love the marginalized?
- He created space to listen to these people’s lives and needs.
- Jesus did something to help meet their physical needs, often healing people.
- Jesus met spiritual needs by sharing Truth of the coming Messiah and Kingdom.
So then, how can we love our marginalized neighbors?
1.We can create space for them to tell their stories.
We need to stop assuming people in specific groups are all the same and instead ask them where they’ve been, truly seeing them and seeking to know them and their need. We must cease our talking and make room for the unheard to be heard. Even if when it feels uncomfortable. Hold space for people to be heard, loved, and valued.
2. We can be a part of helping meet basic physical needs
We can partner with other organizations that are seeking to meet the physical needs of the marginalized. This could include volunteering at a homeless shelter, a sex-trafficking ministry, a refugee organization, etc. We can contribute financially to these organizations that are providing physical needs. Love is best expressed actively (Ja 2:16).
3. We can and must share the Good News with them.
If we create space and help meet physical needs and don’t share the Good News, we’ve missed the point. As Christians, we have the greatest Gift and News to share. We truly love people’s souls by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ask how you can pray for them and then do it.
When we trust Him through our discomfort God transforms the way we love our marginalized neighbors.
Let’s search our hearts: Are there any prejudices, preconceived ideas, or fears that hold you back from loving your marginalized neighbor? Do you feel uncomfortable around people different than you, why do you think that is?
In your context, who is a marginalized neighbor you can intentionally love this week?
Ashtyn is a student at Denver Seminary, where she is pursuing her M.A. in Christian Formation and Soul Care. She is passionate about matters of the soul and has a heart for coming alongside people in their spiritual journey. She loves deep and meaningful conversation with friends, exploring craft coffee shops, hiking in the mountains, reading non-fiction, and playing with her new puppy Hudson. Ashtyn and her husband live in Denver, Colorado.
Connect with Ashtyn at www.ashtynfair.com.