Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. -Matthew 11:28-30
…He said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. -Luke 14:16-23
The great gift of Christ is the lavish way He includes the lost, the poor, the downtrodden, the rejected, the marginalized, and the broken. In fact, He seeks after them – He seeks after us.
I love how neither of the passages above makes mention of why the people are carrying heavy burdens, or why they weren’t on the first list of guests. You see, it doesn’t matter. Jesus doesn’t care if you are buried beneath a heap of your own horrible mess, or if you are drowning in the mess of another’s making. He is the Savior to them both.
This penchant for inclusiveness defies our own natural tendency to categorize and segregate. Certainly, there are some people who are simple off-limits. Are there some messes that are too big for God to reach into and redeem? Joseph and I were faced with these terrifying thoughts in the immediate wake of the disclosure. But our hearts were brought swiftly to scripture and the reminder that nothing is so ugly that it will separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39).
As is often the case, when the Lord reached into our life and reminded us of this powerful truth, He also provided an opportunity to put it into action.
The boys at JCF (Juvenile Corrections Facility) are not on the first guest list. They are the ones hurting and lonely but often facing their greatest fears and challenges without the love and support of a family. They are crushed under the weight of ignorance, sin, and a raw deal.
They did not start out on our first guest list, either.
However, the 10 or so boys that now share life with Asher are quickly becoming our sons. Their names are making indelible prints in our hearts. These young men are growing up in a world that tells them they are nothing. Most of them have at least one incarcerated parent. Many suffered from physical abuse. Out of nearly 200 boys, we are one of an infinitesimal group of parents still married to their original spouse and the only ones in Asher’s group. No one is searching for them to make sure they make it to the banquet. No one cares if their burden is too heavy.
No one except Christ.
No one except Christ, and the people with whom the Spirit of Christ lives.
Joseph and I have no idea what this new, aching heart for the lost boys of our culture means. We don’t even really understand it. We just know that when we are driving to visit Asher, we are almost as anxious to see his peers – to love them. To show them that Jesus loves them. To scream it from the mountains – He is God!