We all need a safe space in which to be ourselves. One of the great joys in life is to be able to relax in the company of friends that fully accept us with all of our flaws and quirks. But for some people this need for a safe space is even more crucial. For some it is the difference between life and death. They are debating whether they have value. They may have experienced a high level of judgment that has taken the life out of their spirit. Whatever the cause, these individuals need safe spaces like water in a desert.
Jesus has a special place in his heart for such people. In fact, they were a focal point in his ministry as is evidenced in Luke 15:1-7: “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
Notice the crowd Jesus is with. Tax collectors and sinners. The people who had lost their reputation and were fair game to be put down, despised and rejected. Had they made mistakes in life? Certainly! But Jesus looked past the content of their choices and saw their hearts. He knew that they simply wanted to be loved and accepted. And so he created a safe space for them. In his presence, they could simply be themselves. They didn't have to have a guard up. They didn't have to armor themselves. They could relax. No wonder they flocked to Jesus. And then, without Jesus doing much else, their lives naturally began to transform.
Here's a question: Do these same people flock to church today? Are we a safe space for those who have been beaten up by the world's judgment and rejection? Luke 15 makes it clear that loving the lost and rejected was a focal point of the ministry of Jesus. So how can we join Jesus in that mission? We can look past the content to the heart of the person that God brings into our lives (see last week's post, How to Love People Who are Wrong). We can start with acceptance as the basis for all of our relationships. We can prioritize love over our need to be right. All of these actions will help us be a safe space for those who are hurting in this world. And God will use us to bring healing and hope into the lives of those who need it most.
I invite you this week to become a safe space for other people. Pay attention to any judgmental thoughts that arise in your mind when you interact with others. Set those aside and focus on the person who is loved by God. Look past the content and see the heart. You will experience the joy of seeing lives transformed by God's grace as it pours through you.
May you be someone's safe space this week.