Is it so difficult to have an actual conversation in this day and age? Are we so distracted and numbed by technology that we can’t talk face-to-face with one another anymore? Have we become a disengaged society of typing instead of a society that actually interacts?
I have several people in my life who need me to use my smart phone as a phone. Not just to send a text message or update a Facebook status. But to use the keypad and CALL them. To TALK to them, verbally, and exchange words. Because they are what we call “old school” and don’t engage with technology. They need conversation.
I also have people in my sphere who don’t seem to understand that sometimes an instant message or text message of just a few words isn’t enough. That an actualy conversation needs to happen to get everyone on the same page. It’s a struggle, wanting to beg for communication and fighting the frustration to lash out from the apathy of too few words.
And the challenge becomes this – how do we properly engage people? How do we interact with people so we make an impact?
And then we ask – what would Jesus do?
Jesus was all about conversation.
He didn’t ignore people.
He engaged them.
In fact, He went out of His way when necessary to talk to people.
The Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-30). Alone. In the heat of the day instead of the cool of the morning. Isolated from the women of the village, who would have gathered at daybreak. And she meets Jesus at the well. And much to her surprise, He didn’t ignore her (as was common cultural practice). He didn’t dismiss her. He engaged her in conversation and inquired about her life. And because He took time to engage her, “the [men] went out of the city and came to Him” (30). He revolutionized her life and revitalized her hope. And she turned around and impacted her community. Simply because He engages her.
The woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:25-34). Twelves years in pain. Twelve years of doctor bills. Twelves years of disappointment after disappointment in cures that did not work. And her last hope is the miraculous Man she has heard about, walking through her town. So she summons what little courage she has and goes out into society (where she is not allowed by law). She struggles through the crowd, hoping beyond rational hope to get close to Him. And then it happens – “She came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment” (27). She was hoping for a little relief. What she got was a miracle, immediately (29). And Jesus knew she was there. Jesus knew she was miraculous healed. And instead of letting her go quietly off, He asks a question to engage her. He didn’t ignore her. He didn’t just walk away. He purposely stops and engages her. To make her acknowledge the miracle in full. So she would know that He healed her physically and then healed her fully in all aspects of her being.
Martha the sister of Lazarus (John 11:1-27). She is overcome with grief at the death of her beloved brother. A death she knew Jesus could have prevented. So she goes to meet Him on the road to the city, and she engages Him out of her grief. And Jesus engages her right back. He didn’t condemned her sorrow. He didn’t ignore her pain. He engages her in her hurt and disappointment. And then He renews her hope and stirs up her faith, despite life’s hard times.
Mary the sister of Martha (John 11:28-35). She is also overwhelmed with grief at the loss of her brother. She sits alone in their home, probably wondering if His love is truly real. And Martha comes rushing back, telling her that Jesus is calling for her. Jesus is wanting to talk to her, Mary. The same woman who once sat at His feet willingly is needing to be drawn back to Him. Because she is wallowing in her pain, hiding from the world, instead of allowing anyone into her pain. And when she meet up with Him, she once again falls at His feet, expressing her pain and disappointment. And Jesus does not condemn her. Jesus does not push her away. Jesus does not send her back home. Jesus engages her at the point of her pain and cries with her (35). He meets her right where she is, offering her comfort and support to carry her through.
The woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-12). A single woman caught with a married man. Perhaps a set-up with one of the religious leaders to embarrass Jesus. And this woman made a bad choice and became the beacon for their hatred of Jesus. Most likely scantily dressed, she is dragged into His presence at the temple, and they taunt Him into condemning her to death as the Law demanded. He does not condemn her. He does not confront her. He does not shame her. Instead, He appears to engage her accusers, who one-by-one leave the scene, possibly in shame (9). And once they are gone, He still does not condemn her. He turns to her and engages her. Face to face. Encouraging her to make better choices (11). Possibly changing the way she lived her life in a most prolific way.
Peter in the storm (Matthew 14:22-33). It is the middle of the night. The disciples are exhausted from listening to Jesus teach the crowds. They are in the middle of the sea, being tossed and turned by the violent storm upon them. And then a figure appears in the darkness, and their fear escalates. But they realize it is their Teacher, and they cry out for relief from the storm. Except for Peter, who decides that if Jesus can walk on water so can he. So he asks Jesus to call him, and Peter takes that valiant and fearless step out of the boat. And he’s the first human to walk on water! But it only takes a few minutes for Peter to realize where he is and get distracted by the storm. And when Peter takes his eyes off Jesus and starts thinking, he starts to sink. And he panics. But Jesus does not abandon him. Jesus does not let him drown. Jesus immediately reaches out and engages Peter. He saves him physically, and then He prepares him spiritually for the challenges that were to come.
Zacchaeus in the tree (Luke 19:1-9). A tax collector assigned by Rome who cheated the people in his village and was probably shunned. And he’s clamoring to see the Teacher with the well-known reputation. But being of short stature, he could not see above or through the crowds. So he takes desperate measures and climbs a tree. And Jesus could have walked right past him. But instead, “He looked up and saw him” (5). He talks to Zacchaeus. He engages with Zacchaeus. He goes home with Zacchaeus and dines with him. Jesus didn’t just make eye contact and smile and keep walking. He got into Zacchaeus’ personal space and engaged him where he was most comfortable. And the tax collector had a major heart change and repents of his misdeeds. And because a Teacher engaged with someone shunned by others, the man was changed and the community benefited.
All these lives impacted because Jesus engaged with them.
And He’s asking us to do the same.
To engage with people.
But engaging is not always easy.
Sometimes it requires having a difficult conversation.
Sometimes it requires standing your ground.
Sometimes it requires being uncomfortable.
Sometimes it requires asking the hard or embarrassing question.
Sometimes it requires telling your story.
Sometimes it requires swallowing your pride and forgiving someone who isn’t sorry.
Sometimes it requires acting happy and praying your feelings will catch up.
Sometimes it requires holding onto the hope that this time will be different.
Sometimes it requires letting go of that grudge that has become your shadow.
Sometimes it requires apologizing and taking responsibility.
Sometimes it requires repaying a wrong.
Sometimes it requires saying “yes” to be obedient.
Sometimes it requires saying “no” to be obedient.
But we have to engage. We have to have a conversation. We have to get face-to-face with people. We have to meet them right where they are. Not trying to change them. Not judging them. Not condemning them. Just loving them enough to get into their personal space and engage them. Like Jesus did.
Because it’s only in engaging that we find compassion. That we give people hope. That we can encourage change.
And consider this possibility – if Jesus did not engage any of the people mentioned above, what would have become of them? They would have become part of the unknown remnant. How would their lives have turned out? Possibly without the positive change Jesus effected. Would we know their stories today? Probably not.
Because it was in Jesus engaging them and becoming part of their story that they became part of His story.
So become part of the story of someone’s change.
Have a conversation.
Make a difference by stepping away from the screens of your life.
And then make sure you take time to engage Jesus.
To invite Him into your day-to-day life to be part of your story.
So He can encourage you.
So much life happens around us.
Will you engage in it today?
Marie Fremin. 9/14 and 9/15/16