Day 19: "If I make my table small."

"For Jesus, sin wasn't the most contagious thing in the world—he was."

—From Ch. 19 ("Contagious Touch"), Jesus Journey

This is one of my favorite things about Jesus: how he opposes the arrogant religious scholars with their petty laws and exclusionary tactics, and welcomes the lowly, the sick, the suffering, the sabbath-breaking, prostituting, tax-collecting scoundrels in all of us.

“Jesus, as he so often does," Trent writes in chapter nineteen, "broke their boundaries. Because he redefined the rules of who was in and who was out solely around himself." Come to me, Jesus still says, you’re welcome here, along with everyone else.

It’s hard to relate to people who are different than us—I think we all know that. We gravitate toward sameness, and it’s all too easy to judge and to label and to exclude.

But what helps us be drawn to each other despite our differences?

Suffering... I think it’s suffering.

I think about my neighbors—before we got to know them—with their Trump signs and NRA flags and "a cannon" (i.e. potato gun) eerily pointed at our house when we first moved in. (By the way, it’s still pointed at our house; it's just no longer eerie to us...)

Our neighbors were intimidating. It would have been easy to build walls, but instead we brought each other cookies. They are so very kind and thoughtful and generous with our kids.

When their daughter, also our neighbor, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I heard the fear in their voices and I saw the worry in their faces. It was hard for her to lose her hair. She doesn't want to be bald for her son’s high-school graduation.

She desperately wants to live.

How can you feel anything but love and empathy when someone shares their raw fears with you? Especially when those fears look a lot like your own.

See the hurting parts in others, and share your own places of pain as well. It won’t erase our differences, but it will make us kind.

“Jesus showed us that holiness is about how we treat others," Trent explains in this chapter, "especially those who are suffering and those who are different, those who may well be outsiders to your way of living, your way of voting, and, yes, your way of believing."

If I make my table small and invite only those that I feel comfortable with, I miss out on so much beauty, so much love, and most of all—so much Jesus.

Today's guest post is by Jenna Mosely Lohnes: Jenna lives in Morgantown, West Virginia with her family. She has three little rascally kids and is married to an aspiring geography doctor. Jenna loves her job working with all kinds of different families at the local community and family resource center: The Shack Neighborhood House. More than anything, she wants to be a kind wife, mother, and neighbor. (She finds the mothering part to be by far the hardest.) Although Jenna is happily settled in West Virginia, a chunk of her heart will always be in Portugal, where she grew up. “Herois do mar, nobre povo…”

Photo credits: "Oregon58" & "Oregon59"—Chelsea Hudson / "crumbling wall"—Stephanie Pekrul