Last year my leg was badly maimed by a dog while I was running. Desiring to avoid this fate in the future, I decided to always run on the opposite side of the highway from this dog’s house. The other day, however, the traffic was so backed up that it was going to be several minutes before I could safely cross the road. Since its been a year, I decided I’d take a risk and run on the dog’s side of the road, which I did without incident. I’ve been running down that same exact highway every day for a year, yet running on the OPPOSITE side of the road was a totally different experience. I noticed things I’ve never noticed before, and got so caught up in my “new environment” that I was shocked when I came to the corner I turn at.
Isn’t it interesting that the other side of the road can be so different than the side we’re used? I share this story because it helps me think about people who live on “the other side of the road.” The people that struggle with all sorts of problems, pitfalls, and pains that are simply hard for us to imagine. Because they are on “the other side of the road” we may be quick to judge them, because we just don’t understand their situation. I used to think this way about many “types” of people. I saw them as sinners who made their own mistakes, and thusly paid the various prices for their problems. Yet, the more I spent time with them, the more God enlarged my heart for them. I gained a better understanding of their situation, as well as a desire to be part of God’s solution for improving their lives and eternities. This is the example Christ set for us. He chose to spend time with those on the “other side of the road,” and time after time transformation happened. Zacchaeus was a prime example. Everyone thought Jesus was out of his mind eating at Zacchaeus house, because Zacchaeus was a notorious cheat. Yet, look at what happened because Jesus crossed the street and spent time loving and sharing with Zacchaeus.
And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:8-10
Look, I see it like this. We can either stay on our side of the metaphorical street, glancing at the broken people on the other side with disinterest or a sense of judgment. Or, following Jesus’ example, we can cross that street and share God’s love with those experiencing all types of trials, and watch as God does amazing and transformative work.