A few weeks ago, I went shopping with my two-year-old daughter. I had parked her stroller at the end of an aisle and was looking at merchandise about ten feet away. Suddenly, a woman approached me. She seemed kind and well-intentioned, as she described a recent near-abduction in Florida and urged me to bring my daughter closer. Even more troubling to her was that my daughter had said hi and waved to her as she walked by. I thanked her for her concern, but inwardly, I smiled.
You see, we teach our children to say hi and wave to other people. Friends. Strangers. It doesn’t matter. Of course, we are not completely naïve. We also teach them never to go anywhere with someone they don’t know, the trusted adults they can turn to in an emergency, and how to keep their bodies safe. But I will never teach my children to ignore or avoid strangers.
I don’t want to live my life in fear, and more importantly, I don’t think that is how God wants us to live either. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God has given us a spirit of love, and sometimes love means reaching out to people we don’t know. That might be the woman in the store, the waiter at a restaurant, or the mom at the playground. Other times, love means interacting with people who are different from us. People who look different than we do, have different beliefs or political associations, or live in a different area of town.
If we look at the life of Jesus, he did this all the time. He spent time with people that “good Jews” were supposed to ignore and went to places that he was not supposed to visit. This feels risky, dangerous even. Just think of Safe Families. Host families take in children they have never met and often work through differences in schedules, discipline strategies, behaviors and values. At the same time, placing families entrust their babies to complete strangers. This sounds crazy! But then again, following Jesus often is. “If following Jesus does not feel dangerous, I should probably pause and check to see if it is Jesus I’m following” (Gary Haugen, Just Courage).
Leaving our comfort zones and stepping into the unknown is not our natural inclination, but we must remember that Jesus isn’t in the boat. He is out on the water, beckoning us to come. To choose compassion in a world that is self-absorbed. To choose hospitality when it is easier to shut our doors. To choose love instead of fear. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God…There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:7, 18).
~ Jennifer Noelle, SFFCCI Host Family
“When the world feels evil, we must be good. When the world feels terrifying, we must refuse to be afraid. This is why love is a revolution. Because it’s not easy. Because choosing love in the face of danger is an act of will. Danger on earth is inevitable. Fear is a choice. Fear and love move in opposite directions. Fear shuts down and closes – love begins again and opens, opens, opens wider and wider still.” Glennon Doyle Melton