A few days ago, our team encountered a group of teenagers that listen to screamo music and dye their hair black and wear skull-patterned clothing and have piercings and tattoos everywhere. They drink and swear and smoke all sorts of things. Lots of them have babies. And criminal records. We’ve spent several days with them in the past while, listening to all the scary songs they want to play us and inhaling as much secondhand smoke our lungs can handle. We asked about their families and answered a billion questions about America. We’ve tried to show them that they are valuable and bring something to the table; that they have voices worth listening to.
Yesterday there was a huge cookout for all the churches in town. We invited our new friends to come and eat free food. Fashionably late, the first five trickled in, and before we knew it there were twenty teenagers sitting around us, cigarettes in hand. They kept reiterating, “We’re only here because there’s free food, you know…” but to my knowledge, none of them ate a bite the entire day.
One of the boys (we’ll call him B) looked across the way and saw a baptismal: “Can I baptize my bike? It’s got dirt on it” he said. The other boys snickered and looked at my face for a response. I just smiled and nodded my head because if you approached B two weeks ago and told him he’d be sitting on a church lawn listening to worship music and watching people get baptized on May 19th, he would’ve laughed in your face. But for hours and hours, he sat there. Hungover, high and loved by God, he sat there.
It is similar to the famous tax collector, Zacchaeus, who, seeking something he did not fully understand, sat on the top of a tree to watch Jesus walk by. Despised by men, lost as anyone, and loved by God, he sat there. It was only a matter of time before Jesus looked up and said, “Hey you. Yes you. I’m going to your house today, so hurry up and come down here. I see you. I choose you.” People gasped and mumbled, “Can you believe Jesus is going to eat with that guy? If he only knew what Zacchaeus was doing last night…”
Knowing they had missed the point altogether, Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “Don’t you see? I came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:1-10).
Many times, I am guilty of trying to find semi-righteous people to share the Gospel with— people that have grown up in the church or at least know that doing drugs isn’t a good idea. I shy away from the really rough crowd because “people in the suburbs need Jesus, too.” But Jesus seemed to be on a different mission many times, choosing to disciple a bunch of misfits and criminals and punk-rock teenagers from England.
My new friend B, and the rest of his motley crew, are watching from a distance at the top of a sycamore tree. Our team is jumping and pointing and lifting up the name of Jesus, but God is the only one who can draw them to Himself. Please join with me in praying that our friends will hear Jesus’ call from the crowd: “Hey you. Yes you. I am going to your house today, so hurry up and come down here. I see you. I choose you.”