You’ve been there. Who hasn’t? You made a mistake. You did something you know you shouldn’t have. You convinced yourself at the time that it wasn’t so bad but, deep down, you knew better. And now, you’re left to deal with the aftermath. Maybe someone got offended. Maybe someone got hurt. Maybe people you loved and respected ended up rejecting you.
And now you’re stuck with an uncomfortable regret.
Or a broken relationship you can’t fix.
Or a pain that seems like it will never go away.
When this happens, it’s easy to feel like you’re looking up from the bottom of a deep well and there’s no point of even trying to climb out. You can’t change the past, so you might as well just accept this as part of your identity now.
It doesn’t matter what box you’re put in. The box itself makes it clear that you’re not really welcome at the table anymore, if you ever really were. Not part of the community. Not part of the circle. Nowhere to belong.
When this feeling sets in, it’s important to remember that you are not as alone as you feel. The truth is, most people know what it’s like to be unwanted and unwelcome because of their mistakes or offenses. You’re not unique in being imperfect. Imperfect people have been part of some of the most important movements in history. The Civil Rights Movement. Abolition. Women’s Suffrage. These and so many more incredible achievements were accomplished by normal people with a history of blowing it.
Only one person in history has never made a mistake, and even He chose to surround Himself with people who did. In fact, the whole entire movement that was started by Jesus was further championed by some of the least perfect people He could have possibly picked.
Jesus hung out with troublemakers. And sometimes, even worse.
The Apostles, as his friends became known, were a mix of hot-headed, foul-mouthed commercial fishermen, intolerant rich kids, corrupt public officials and violent extremists. Some of them were faithless and pessimistic. Some even harmed others by charging exorbitant taxes on their own people and committing violent crimes in the name of patriotism.
Some befriended Jesus for the wrong reasons. They thought He would overthrow the government or take over the world with a new empire. Others were just surprised that someone so righteous would accept them into His circle.
Jesus was also close friends with several women, and society didn’t value women at the time. Their testimony was seen as untrustworthy and their company was often seen as inherently suspicious. Remind you of any societies you know of today?
In short, any PR firm worth its salt would have told Jesus to ditch this group of followers if He wanted to have a real impact. This is no way to start a movement. None of these people had any real platforms, and if they were known for anything, it wasn’t good. They were the subject of rumors. They’d made big mistakes.They were a bad headline waiting to happen.
But slowly, over time, all these men and women came to understand Jesus and His message of radical love. And those troublemakers, outcasts, zealots and loudmouths grew into a close-knit community deeply devoted to following Jesus. They found happiness in His teachings despite their beginnings, and they carried the message of Jesus to the rest of the world. The reason we still know who Jesus is and what He taught today is because of the work they did. Their imperfections didn’t define them. They were defined by the message of Jesus.
So what does this mean for us, today?
It’s a reminder that the people who follow Jesus aren’t perfect and never have been. That’s not an excuse to be a bad person, and we all have probably heard or seen examples of people who used God’s forgiveness as an excuse to act in ugly ways. What it does mean is that whatever labels you’ve been given by society are overruled by the acceptance of Jesus. He has always loved the outcasts, troublemakers and loudmouths. He spent His whole life loving them, and then told them to go and love others.
So if you’re feeling like your life and actions exclude you from any sort of real community, take this piece of encouragement: Jesus has always loved the people in the margins. He loves the mistake-makers and the problem-people. He loves the people who didn’t feel like they measured up or fit in. And no matter what you’ve done, He loves people like you too.