Widen the Circle: Why Following Jesus Requires Loving People Who Aren’t Exactly Like You

The Kitchen Table

If you have some experience with the Bible, you probably know that Jesus has set forth a pretty clear purpose for people: love God, love one another. So simple in theory, actually rather difficult in practice. As it turns out, when Jesus told us to love one another, he wasn’t just talking about people who are just like us. He actually meant everyone.

In my experience, the church has done kind of a crap job of caring for people who are outside the typical married with 2.5 kids and a white picket fence group. Granted, I’m at a point in my life where I pretty much fall squarely into that category. Before that, though, I was a young single person in the church. Then I was a pregnant high schooler—the horror. Then a single mom. Then a single mom who brought her child and her sort of agnostic boyfriend to church with her.

Along the way, I absolutely found people who loved me and welcomed me and poured into me. But a lot of the time, I felt distinctly out of place. I felt like once I finally got all the pieces of my life together, then I would finally fit in and feel comfortable in my own skin and within the walls of a church.

I can’t help but think a lot of people probably feel this way about the church and “churchy people”—that if they don’t fit into the typical Christian family category, they don’t really belong. And that makes me really sad, because Jesus didn’t come to bring good news just to one category of people. On the contrary—he came to rescue us all, especially the marginalized. Jesus himself would’ve fallen totally out of the typical Christian churchgoer category. He was an unmarried carpenter-turned-traveling-rabbi who hung out with tax collectors, prostitutes and fishermen. Talk about being on the fringes of society.

Somewhere along the way, the modern church became more of a reflection of the American Dream than of the all-inclusive love of Jesus. And that’s made a lot of us who call ourselves believers comfortable with staying in our bubbles and spending time with people who are just like us.

But Jesus’s plan for us to widen the circle and love one another has so much more for us, if we would just listen and do it.

Here are some categories of people you’re called to love, include and care for, even if you’re a married-with-kids-and-a-white-picket-fence person:

  • Singles
  • Married people without kids
  • Unmarried couples
  • Older adults
  • LGBTQ people
  • Single parents
  • Literally everyone else

Remember, if you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re a follower of a single Jewish man who spent much of his time among people who were considered outsiders in the eyes of the religious. It’s time to widen the circle.

Side note: there are some cool side effects of reaching out to people who aren’t exactly like you. They include letting go of your own pride, gaining new perspectives, and maybe even having an actual good time.

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