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Welcome Others: Take A Chance on Someone New

Sep 1, 2022Blog, Culture

Freshman year of college is so bizarre. You are expected to meet as many people as you can in a short amount of time and then expected to choose who you will be friends with. For most people, college is the first time we have ever lived on our own. We are searching for our people, the people that are to become our family and help us cross the line into adulthood. The temptation is to cling to the first people who will show us any attention and befriend us. 

Shortly after my first year of college started, I had a group of about 15 friends that hung out together every waking minute, as long as we weren’t preoccupied. We were inseparable and moved as a pack. 

We were all very different in belief and story, yet we didn’t care. The disappointing part was that as we began to ask life’s questions and learn who we are, we let the things that made us unique separate us from the community that we had created. 

I had a conversation recently with one of these people. This relationship had become very tense, but this conversation became a conversation of reconciliation and allowed us to reconnect and talk about the way things used to be, about the ways in which we had all drifted apart, and about the ways we were sad we had let things come between us. 

This conversation made me think of Romans 8:38-39, a verse that says:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

If both ends of each parallel listed above are received and don’t separate us from the love of God, then why do we let things separate us as followers of Christ?

Romans 12:12-13 says:

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

The ways in which all of my freshman year friends and I drifted apart created a sense that we weren’t welcome to community with each other anymore and it sure didn’t make other people feel welcome either. I was guilty of it too and for someone who prides themselves on hospitality, I didn’t always create the most welcoming of settings. Looking back on those moments hurt me because I now see a bunch of freshmen who were hopeful for the future, excited for the ways that the Lord was moving, who were not patient when affliction arose. We derailed the path that Romans 12:12-13 calls us to all because we thought we knew better, and how dare someone tell us otherwise.

I think there are lots of people who are in stages of life in which they are excited and hopeful for the future. As Christians, we are called to set the table for them to be able to experience the fullness of the community God intended to use to bring them closer in relationship to Him. Just like we say at Cross Point all the time, we are called to set the table. 

If we are called to this, why then did that group of friends fall apart because we believed in different things? I do think it is wise to be cautious of what and who we fill our lives with, but there are lessons to be learned by sitting in the presence of people unlike us. Jesus was our best example of this as He literally sat with tax collectors and sinners. He didn’t only invite the religious leaders and believers, He invited those who were everything but.

Just like in my story, we sometimes let things come in the way of our ability to set the table and we make it an exclusive table, only surrounding ourselves with people who believe exactly what we do. We need to learn to find a way to allow the parallels to live in harmony. There is a beauty in opening the table to someone unlike us. There might even be lessons we need to learn, but if we close ourselves off to the idea of things that make us uncomfortable and to hospitality, we miss the voice of God.

There are many different beliefs between each of the friends I made freshman year and those beliefs created a barrier in the relationships. I’ve recently found myself wishing we could go back to moments that year. Moments when we were naive to the ways that we were different and were united for one reason, longing to be known and loved for who we are, where we are. I wish I could go back because I would tell myself to be more open when things got tense, I would tell myself to listen better, to set the table better and be open to the lessons I was trying to be taught.

Something that I want to challenge other college students to, that I challenge myself to, that I challenge anyone to, is to take a chance on someone new. You never know what gem you will find in the treasures that the Lord places right in front of your face, what lessons He wants to show you and what ways He is calling you to be the hands and feet of Jesus. A christian cliche phrase is, ”What would Jesus do?” But these moments of encountering warrant asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do in this moment?”